Category Archives: Asia

Headlines of the day: Today in Trumplandia™


From the Washington Post, the three leading front page stories:

Secretary of state nominee pushed for Exxon deal in Iraq despite U.S. plea

  • The 2011 oil exploration deal overseen by former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson — whose confirmation hearings to become secretary of state begin Wednesday — defied U.S. diplomats’ requests that the company wait, fearing such an agreement would undermine their credibility with Iraqi authorities and worsen ethnic tensions that had led Iraq to the brink of civil war.

Defense nominee urged U.S. strike against Iran during Iraq War

  • Gen. James Mattis’s falling-out with the Obama administration over Iran offers perspective into how he would lead the world’s largest military and the advice he would bring during sensitive Situation Room debates.

Over China’s objections, Ted Cruz and Texas governor meet with Taiwanese president

  • The meeting is likely to irk officials in Beijing amid already heightened tensions between the U.S. and China.

Fueled by Trump, the Game of Zones heats up


The Donald’s provocative moves in the delicate multi-power game underway in the China Seas have include incendiary tweets, numerous campaign declarations, and, in particular, two meetings.

The first came in the form of the first post-election visit by a foreign leader, Shinzo Abe’s 18 November visit to the President-elects Trump Tower suite, a meeting also attended by the first-daughter-to-be Ivanka and her real estate mogul/media baron spouse.

The meeting, Trump’s first-ever flesh-presser with a foreign head of state, also came while Ivanka was sealing a business deal with a Japanese company. business negotiations.

Then, on 2 December came another foreign visitor, this time by telephone, when Trump reversed decades of American foreign policy by engaging in direct conversation with the President of Tawan, a government most of the world doesn’t recognize, in part because of its claims to be the only legitimate government of the Chinese mainland.

Besides appealing to the Cold War strains still resonating in the Grand Old Party, Trump’s conversation with Tsai Ing-wen inflamed Beijing — probably intentionally — even though he’s the first Taiwanese leader who hasn’t endorsed claims to rightly rule the mainland.

Oh, and former U.S. Senator-turned-lobbyist Bob Dole spent months setting up the meeting, his firm pocketing more than $140,000 for Dole’s labors.

Abe takes heart from Trump’s glad-handing

Bolstered by his meeting with the anti-Beijing Trump, Japan’s prime minister is beefing up his country’s military agenda in the Game of Zones.

We begin with a map from the Yomiuri Shimbun, a conservative Japanese paper charting the competing powers in the Game of Zones:

blog-zones

From the accompanying story:

The government plans to formulate by this summer an integrated defense strategy, which outlines how the Self-Defense Forces would respond in the event of a contingency involving China over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, according to government sources.

The measure is aimed at devising scenarios for a possible clash between Japan and China.

To strengthen the defense of the Nansei Islands through cooperation between the SDF and U.S. forces, the government will also compile a Japan-U.S. joint operation plan at the same time, the sources said.

With these measures, the government intends to become fully prepared and, at the same time, to develop a deterrent effect against China, which has been stepping up its military activities in areas around Japan.

Possible scenarios for a contingency over the Senkakus likely include an accidental clash between a Chinese fisheries patrol boat and a Japan Coast Guard patrol vessel, the dispatch by China of patrol vessels en masse, the deployment of Chinese naval vessels, and landing on any of the islands by a Chinese airborne unit.

The strategy is expected to stipulate operations to be conducted in the form of exercising the right to self-defense within Japan’s territories and waters, such as preventing a military vessel from approaching a remote island by using surface-to-ship missiles of the Ground Self-Defense Force, bringing enemy forces under control with ground strafing from an Air Self-Defense Force fighter jet or fire from a Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer, and having GSDF personnel land on the island.

So what are Trump’s motives

Here’s what a Chinese government paper came up with when it looked across the Pacific.

From China Daily:

In light of US President-Elect Donald Trump’s hawkish remarks about China, allied to a number of unexpected moves in the wake of his election victory, experts in Sino-US studies around the world have expressed deep concerns about the key relationship.

Many of the experts have warned that the Sino-US relationship may revert to the deep, mutual distrust that characterized relations between the countries during the 1960s.

Ted Carpenter, senior fellow of defense and foreign policy at the Cato Institute in Washington, said he is “increasingly worried” about Trump’s policies regarding China.

“At first, I thought that Trump was engaging in the ‘China-bashing’ that is fairly typical of US presidential campaigns. Yet once in office, new presidents have pursued policies very similar to those of their predecessors since the early 1970s,” he said, adding that Trump’s post-election actions suggest that something else may be going on.

“The telephone conversation with Tsai Ing-wen was startling enough, but the Trump transition team’s insistence on referring to her as the ‘President of Taiwan’ indicated sympathy with hard-line Taiwanese separatists,” he said, referring to a phone call between Trump and the Taiwan leader on Dec 2, which broke with decades of diplomatic precedent.

The irony is that China turned to the Cato Institute, the libertarian think tank that gave birth to the first draft of Reaganomics.

And China signals possible reprisals to come

More on China/U.S. relations in the Age of Trump from the Financial Times:

Senior Chinese officials have warned the US that Beijing is ready to retaliate if Donald Trump’s incoming administration imposes new tariffs, highlighting the risk of a destructive trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

Penny Pritzker, the outgoing US commerce secretary, said in an interview with the Financial Times that Chinese officials had informed their US counterparts in a meeting after November’s election that they would be forced to respond to trade measures taken by the new administration.

“The Chinese leadership said to me ‘If you guys put an import duty on us we are going to do it on you’,” Ms Pritzker said. “And then they said ‘That will be bad for both of us’.”

She said that the next administration needed to decide “the fine line between being tough and a trade war”, cautioning that such a confrontation would have “enormous consequence” for the US.

The move highlights the concern in China over the risk to relations presented by Mr Trump, who has also offended Beijing by breaking with traditional US policy on Taiwan.

In the words of that venerable China-watcher Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street,  “Come Watson! The game is afoot.”

Trump talk sparks threat of arms race with China


Donald Trump’s increasingly belligerent attitude towards China has sparked a state media call for the Asian nation to ramp up its nuclear arsenal, rasining the specter of Cold War II.

From United Press International:

China’s state tabloid is calling for the expansion of defense spending on nuclear weaponry in response to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s critical stance toward Beijing.

The editorial published Wednesday in the Global Times comes at a time when China is imposing a penalty on an unnamed U.S. automaker for monopolistic behavior. The state newspaper suggested Beijing should not be pushed out by a militarily powerful United States.

“China’s defense spending and defense capabilities cannot threaten the United States at all, and Trump’s declaration in relation to the ‘one-China’ policy has amply demonstrated U.S. arrogance,” the Global Times stated. “This kind of arrogant position originates from the military superiority of the United States.”

China spends less than the United States on the military. According to IHS Janes, the United States is the No. 1 acquirer of military goods and services, having spent $622 billion, while China spent $192 billion.

Philippine president brags of killing drug dealers


The controversial Philippine president, a man nicknamed “Duterte Harry” after Clint Eastwood’s cinematic killer cop, has bragged about cruising the streets of the city where he served as mayor, looking for drug dealers so he could kill them.

The president, sometimes called Trump on steroids, has previously said that a phone conversation with the American President-elect, made him “feel like a saint.”

From the Guardian:

Rodrigo Duterte has announced he personally killed suspected criminals when he was mayor of his home city of Davao in the Philippines, cruising the streets on a motorcycle and “looking for trouble”.

The country’s president made the comments in a speech late on Monday night as he discussed his campaign to eradicate illegal drugs, which has seen police and unknown assailants kill around 5,000 people since he became president on 30 June.

“In Davao I used to do it personally. Just to show to the guys [police officers] that if I can do it, why can’t you,” he was quoted as saying by AFP, talking of his two decades as mayor of the southern city of 1.5 million people.

“And I’d go around in Davao with a motorcycle, with a big bike around, and I would just patrol the streets, looking for trouble also.

“I was really looking for a confrontation so I could kill.”

More from Agence France Presse:

“I (would) sometimes go along with them. If you say I shot someone, maybe I did. I was closing my eyes because I am scared of firing a gun,” said Duterte, a lawyer and former state prosecutor.

Rights groups have previously accused Duterte of running vigilante death squads in Davao that killed more than 1,000 suspected criminals, including children accused of petty crimes.

Duterte has variously denied and acknowledged involvement in the death squads.

But he easily won presidential elections in May after promising to roll-out his Davao law-and-order policies across the nation.

He pledged that 100,000 people would die in the crackdown and that so many bodies would be dumped in Manila Bay that fish there would grow fat from feeding on them.

Did Hanoi just follow up Trump’s China play?


Donald Trump has been pulling the tail of the Chinese dragon for more than a year, stirring up voters with fears of China’s economic strength, and by openly siding with Japan and the Philippines in the Games of Zones, the struggle for control of the resource-rich waters of the China Seas.

In the contest over the Asian waters, four nations have been staking claims and planting bases, but most of the attention has been focused China’s expansion of reefs into air bases, and starting with a campaign speech fifteen months ago, Trump indicated he opposed China’s policy, while making no mention of the roles played by the other nations.

Barack Obama had added this own fuel to the fire, as American jet fighters skirted air space claimed by China, while in September the administration hinted at stronger measures to come.

But Trump’s anti-China rhetoric has been far more provocative, hinting at both economic warfare and a more aggressive military stance.

And with his phone conversation with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, breaking four decades of precedent, he further angered Beijing.

And now, it seems, Vietnam is stepping up the pressure.

From Reuters:

Vietnam has begun dredging work on a disputed reef in the South China Sea, satellite imagery shows, the latest move by the Communist state to bolster its claims in the strategic waterway.

Activity visible on Ladd Reef in the Spratly Islands could anger Hanoi’s main South China Sea rival, Beijing, which claims sovereignty over the group and most of the resource-rich sea.

Ladd Reef, on the south-western fringe of the Spratlys, is completely submerged at high tide but has a lighthouse and an outpost housing a small contingent of Vietnamese soldiers. The reef is also claimed by Taiwan.

In an image taken on Nov. 30 and provided by U.S.-based satellite firm Planet Labs, several vessels can be seen in a newly dug channel between the lagoon and open sea.

While the purpose of the activity cannot be determined for certain, analysts say similar dredging work has been the precursor to more extensive construction on other reefs.

The game is heating up, and with an unpredictable buffoon in the White House, the fire next time could be nuclear.

Duterte: Donald Trump makes me ‘feel like a saint’


The brutal Philippine president, who has drawn international condemnation for ordering police and vigilantes to kill drug dealers on site, racking up a body count in the thousands, says he’s just talked to The Donald, and the call left him dancing on air.

It’s easy to understand why they get along. After all, it was Duterte who called Barack Obama the “son of a whore.”

From the Associated Press:

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says he felt “like a saint” after his phone conversation last week with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, who he said praised him for “doing great” in his deadly campaign against illegal drugs.

Duterte said in a speech Wednesday that Trump told him not to worry about Americans criticizing him, saying “you are doing good, go ahead.” He said Trump invited him for coffee if he visits the U.S. to hear how he deals with the media, his critics and the public.

Duterte quoted Trump as saying, “We should fix our bad relations.”

The friendly exchange was a departure from Duterte’s hostility toward President Barack Obama. He lashed out at Obama for raising concerns over the drug crackdown, which has left more than 4,000 suspects dead.

Headline of the day: Trumplandia™ swamp news


From the New York Times:

Lobbying by Bob Dole Led to Trump’s Call With Taiwan

  • The former senator turned lobbyist helped establish the high-level contacts that led to the call between Donald J. Trump and the president of Taiwan.
  • Mr. Dole’s firm received $140,000 from May to October for the work on behalf of Taiwan, according to disclosure documents filed last week.