On Thursday, the White House cancelled President Donald Trump’s June 12 meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the following letter.
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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.
Last week, Reuters reported that China is “considering revisions to its maritime safety law which would make foreign submersibles travel on the surface and report their movements to authorities when in China’s waters.” The news bulletin also reported that draft provisions would allow maritime authorities “to stop foreign ships entering Chinese waters if the ships are judged to be a possible cause of harm to navigational safety and order.”