The most recent U.S. freedom-of-navigation operation (FONOP) in the South China Sea garnered the usual global headlines, but it also shows how ineffective such operations have been in deterring Chinese actions in the region. It was so inconsequential that the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs could not even be bothered to come up with new phrases in what is now a ritualized denunciation.
Latest in Asia Pacific
On May 18, the China Daily reports, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force landed multiple H-6K bomber aircrafts on the disputed Woody Island in the South China Sea. This is the first time China has publicly landed its bombers on any of the features in the South China Sea region.
On Thursday, the White House cancelled President Donald Trump’s June 12 meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the following letter.
U.S. and China Initiate Next Round of Trade Talks
Last Friday, President Trump signed into law the Taiwan Travel Act, which makes it a U.S. policy to allow high-level meetings between Taiwan and U.S. government officials. News reports about the law have often described it as “non-binding.” This “not legally binding” view is widely shared, including by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But this reading is not quite right.
The Taiwan Travel Act, which passed the Senate on Feb. 28 and is heading to the president for his signature, will have limited legal force since it does not require the president to do anything he cannot already do under the U.S. Constitution. But that does not mean the law is purely symbolic. It is likely to have a significant impact on U.S.-Taiwan policy, and consequently, on the increasingly fragile U.S.-China relationship.
The Olympic games are more than just sport.
The 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea have begun. For two weeks, athletes from around the world will careen down mountains and glide on mirror-perfect ice. But as always, global politics–and the military and security threats behind those politics–lie just beneath the sporting surface.
The United States and South Korea (the “U.S.-ROK alliance”) generally conduct two major military exercises throughout the year: the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian exercise in the fall (underway until Aug. 31) and the Foal Eagle-Key Resolve exercise in the spring. North Korea regularly complains about these exercises.
Secretary of State Tillerson is proving to be a man of few words. The result is that there is less to parse, but what is on record is more pointed than the lengthy disquisitions of his predecessor. Six components of his Asia trip require careful reading: his assurances to allies; “20 years of failure”; sanctions; military options; negotiations; and the all-important China audience of one, Xi Jinping.
The Assurance Piece
On February 18, 2017, Beijing abruptly announced that it would suspend all coal imports from North Korea through the end of this year. China’s Ministry of Commerce explained the move as part of its effort to implement sanctions adopted November 30, 2016 under UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2321.