Prev Up Next


UN split over N Korean rocket launch

BLAST OFF: Some called for strict measures against Pyongyang such as a non-binding resolution and sanctions, while others warned against jeopardizing the six-nation talks

Tuesday, Apr 07, 2009, Page 1

South Korea yesterday vowed a stern response and Japan threatened new sanctions after North Korea’s rocket launch, but the UN struggled for agreement on whether to punish the communist state.

“North Korea’s reckless act that threatens regional and global security cannot be justified under any circumstances,” South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said in a radio address, promising a “stern” response to provocations.

Japan’s government will decide on Friday on new bilateral sanctions, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said. Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone said it hoped the UN Security Council would agree on a resolution to condemn North Korea.

The council adjourned on Sunday after three hours of closed-door talks with no accord on a response to what Western members called a clear breach of UN resolutions.

Members were to continue consultations.

North Korea announced on Sunday that a long-range rocket had placed into orbit a communications satellite that was beaming “immortal revolutionary songs” in praise of its former and current leaders, former North Korean president Kim Il-sung and North Korean President Kim Jong-il.

Kim Jong-il was present at the launch and “warmly encouraged” scientists and technicians before having his picture taken with them, state media said yesterday.

South Korea and the US military said a satellite never made it into space. A senior Russian military source also said there were no signs of a satellite.

Seoul, Washington and Tokyo, along with other countries, said the launch was a pretext to test a long-range Taepodong-2 missile in violation of UN resolutions.

One diplomat at the UN said US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, backed by her British and French colleagues, pressed for “strong condemnation” of the launch.

But Russia, China, Libya, Uganda and Vietnam called for restraint so as not to endanger the six-nation talks on North Korea’s nuclear disarmament.

“All countries concerned should show restraint and refrain from taking action that might lead to increased tension,” China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Yesui (張業遂) told reporters on Sunday.

“The use of ballistic missile technology is a clear violation of the resolution, which prohibits missile-related activities,” Rice said in reference to Resolution 1718 passed after North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests in 2006.

Rice said the council might take up a resolution or a non-binding statement that would reaffirm existing sanctions.

Lee later called for China’s support in dealing with North Korea in a meeting with visiting Chinese Communist Party propaganda chief Li Changchun (李長春), Yonhap news agency reported.

Iran said yesterday that North Korea’s launch was justified and denied any links between the two countries’ missile programs, which analysts have widely alleged.

“We have always maintained that space can be used for peaceful purposes by adhering to international laws,” a Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said. “As it is our right to do so, we maintain that others also have that right.”

The Indian foreign ministry said the launch could have a “destabilizing” effect in the region but urged international restraint.



Protesters call for censuring of Council of Grand Justices

WHITE TERROR: Former prisoners and families of the victims said the grand justices had failed to rule on their case against the imposition of martial law

By Shelley Huang
Tuesday, Apr 07, 2009, Page 2

Former prisoners from the White Terror period, victims’ relatives and supporters protest outside the Control Yuan in Taipei yesterday, calling on the Council of Grand Justices to rule that the imposition of martial law on Taiwan was unconstitutional.



About 100 people whose family members were victims of the White Terror gathered outside the Control Yuan yesterday to call for the censuring of the grand justices.

The demonstrators held up signs that read: “People are watching the Council of Grand Justices,” “Council of Grand Justices tolerates White Terror” and “Grand Justices have failed to do their job, the Control Yuan should censure them.”

They protested that the council had ignored their pleas and should be censured for failing to rule on the constitutionality of the decades-long martial law, which was imposed in 1949 — a case that they hoped could lead to compensation for thousands of former political prisoners and the families of those who were executed.

“There are 15 grand justices who receive a monthly salary of about NT$300,000,” said former national policy adviser Hsieh Tsung-min (謝聰敏), who was also a political prisoner.

“But in 2006, they only issued 14 rulings [on the interpretation of the Constitution], in 2007 there were 12 rulings, and last year 18 rulings. That means they barely issued two rulings per month. But their salaries are the highest of all judges,” he said.

Hsieh and the demonstrators urged Taiwanese to scrutinize the grand justices.

The White Terror refers to the period of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) rule in which hundreds of thousands of people were arrested, imprisoned, tortured or murdered. The KMT killed tens of thousands of suspected dissidents — mainly Taiwanese intellectual and members of the social elite — as it searched for communist agents and sympathizers, independence activists and others the KMT feared could pose a threat to its rule. The all-powerful Taiwan Garrison Command identified victims through a web-like secret agent system.





Can Taiwan survive historical forces?

Tuesday, Apr 07, 2009, Page 8

Those among us who gaze into the future could be forgiven for feeling that the prospects for a free and thriving Taiwan are getting dimmer by the week.

This is mostly because those who should be erecting the foundations for the future of this nation appear to have been shoved aside by giants with dangerously poor hearing. Greater forces — cosmic ones, if we factor in comments made recently by Buddhist Master Hsing Yun (星雲) — all seem to be pushing us toward some inevitable future that has no patience for those who seek to ensure that Taiwan remains a free country.

The administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has been selling the economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) — being negotiated between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) — in terms that are filled with a sense of inevitability. If Taiwan does not sign an ECFA with China, we are told, we will be marginalized and excluded from regional trade organizations.

Despite widespread fears about the implications of signing a pact with China, or disagreement on how we should proceed, Ma has nixed the idea of holding referendums and said that an ECFA would be signed, no matter what. It does not get more inevitable than this.

Compounding the sense of inevitability is the mystery that surrounds the ECFA talks. Rumor has it that contact between the KMT and the CCP has already begun. And yet, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) last week could not confirm to the Taiwan Foreign Correspondents Club whether this was happening. In fact, not only did Wang — whose duties as head of the legislature include monitoring the executive branch — claim not to know if contacts have indeed begun, but all he could offer was that once the details of an ECFA have been agreed upon, they would be shared with the legislature — not for revision or approval, but simply as a courtesy. In other words, by the time an ECFA reaches the legislature, it would be a fait accompli.

Another worrying development — again something that is well beyond the ability of Taiwanese to control — is Washington’s move toward the creation of a “G2” with China, an exclusive US-China relationship that would go well beyond cooperation on economic matters, and enter the strategic sphere. Should this come into being, the forces of history could very well engulf Taiwan.

Already, major allies of the US in the Asia-Pacific region, such as Japan and India, have voiced concern at the emergence of a “G2,” which they perceive as a plot by Beijing to undermine their influence in the region. Western observers, including Dennis Wilder, a visiting fellow at the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution, have been receptive to those fears and highlighted the downsides.

“We [the US] have far more in common with our allies and the region’s democracies than with China,” Wilder wrote in the Washington Post last week.

And yet, not once did Wilder, a former senior director for East Asian affairs at the National Security Council, mention Taiwan. This is a telling omission. If giants like Japan and India risk being undermined by a US-China “G2,” one can only wonder what the arrangement entails for the future of this country.

As the saying goes, when elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers. In a time when the giants of this world have their eyes fixed on the global economy and increasingly see China as an indispensable ally, small states are likely to be pushed around — and perhaps sacrificed. Unless Taiwan starts making noise now, it could very well become the first “inevitable” democratic casualty of the force of history that is the global financial crisis.



The PLA Navy sails the South China Sea

By James Holmes
Tuesday, Apr 07, 2009, Page 8

US leaders should not be surprised at China’s vehemence toward US maritime operations in the South China Sea. Nor is this merely a passing phase in China’s rise. As the Chinese economy grows more and more dependent on seaborne commerce passing through the Strait of Malacca and as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy extends its seaward reach, Beijing will take an increasingly forceful approach to Southeast Asian affairs.

By no means is armed conflict inevitable, but Washington should expect Beijing to mount a persistent challenge. It may even try to recast the US-led maritime order in Asia to suit Chinese preferences. Stronger powers tend to push for legal interpretations favorable to themselves and they tend to get their way. Redefining its offshore “exclusive economic zone,” or EEZ, as sovereign waters would let China forbid many foreign naval activities in maritime Southeast Asia.

Beijing’s ambitions are no secret. Chinese law claims virtually the whole South China Sea as territorial waters. Recent harassment by Chinese vessels of two US survey ships operating in international waters — but within China’s EEZ, south of Hainan Province — is probably just the start of Sino-US wrangling over maritime law. If Beijing’s view wins out, the South China Sea will in effect become a Chinese lake, especially as the PLA Navy increases its capacity to put steel behind China’s maritime territorial claims.

The US can look to its own past to understand why China attaches such importance to the South China Sea. A century ago, with its own economic and military might on the rise, the US struck a prickly attitude toward outside intervention in the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Washington increasingly sought to exclude not only Germany’s High Seas Fleet, but the world’s foremost navy, Great Britain’s Royal Navy, from nearby seas.

Why? Because US economic and strategic interests were at stake. The Spanish-American War left the US dominant in the Gulf and Caribbean while handing it its first naval base in Asia, namely the Philippines. To compound matters, engineers were digging a canal across the Central American Isthmus, promising to dramatically shorten the voyage to Asia from the US east coast.

The canal would also speed up maritime traffic between European imperial powers like the UK and Germany and their possessions in East Asia. Britain was entrenched at Chinese seaports like Hong Kong and colonial-era Port Edward. Germany wrested Kiaochow from the Qing Dynasty in 1897. Forward bases were necessary to support the cruises of fuel-thirsty ships. Consequently, the imperial powers coveted coaling stations along the new Caribbean sea route.

This would not do. US administrations used various tactics to shut the imperial powers out of US waters. Around 1900, Washington struck up a bargain with Britain under which the Royal Navy shut down its American fleet station. The administration of then-US president Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed an “international police power” to prevent European navies from seizing bases in Caribbean states that defaulted on their debts to European creditors.

Ideas about the sea provoke strong passions. Try telling an Indian his nation has no right to be No. 1 in the Indian Ocean, or calling the Persian Gulf “the Arabian Gulf” in front of an Iranian, and you’ll see what I mean. The same goes for China along its nautical frontiers. It’s almost a foregone conclusion then, that China is more determined than the US to shape events in the China seas.

The US must renew its political commitment to Asia while bolstering its naval posture. Otherwise, Washington will abdicate its maritime leadership.

James Holmes is an associate professor of strategy at the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island.


Prev Up Next