Category Archives: Geopolitics

Dems defeat Bernie’s anti-TPP platform plank

We are shocked, shocked.

From the Associated Press:

Bernie Sanders failed in his quest to include opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal in a draft of the Democratic Party’s policy positions at a meeting Saturday, where several amendments against the deal were voted down by Hillary Clinton supporters.

During a combative meeting in a hotel ballroom, members of the Democratic National Convention’s full Platform Committee voted down amendments to explicitly oppose the deal and to oppose a vote on it in Congress. Instead, they endorsed an amendment that included stronger language governing trade deals, including the TPP.

Sanders and Clinton have come out against the trade deal, but President Barack Obama supports it. Clinton supporters, including labor leaders, believed that toughening the trade language made enough of a statement without directly opposing the president, whom they did not mention during their public comments. The amendment said that trade deals “must protect workers and the environment and not undermine access to critically needed prescription drugs.” It went on to say that Democrats would apply those standards “to all trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

Labor leaders said after the vote that their amendment made clear where they stand on TPP and that they oppose “bad trade deals.” But Sanders backers expressed their frustration with boos and angry shouts.

Tensions mount again in the Asian Game of Zones

Tensions have reached new highs in the China Seas, where the Obama is pushing to militarize Japan and rearm one-time enemy Vietnam to oppose China’s presence in the resource rich waters of the China Seas.

As part of his gambit, Obama has been pushing the right wing government of Japanese Prime Minister to scrap the pacifist provisions of that nations constitution, provisions put in place under the American military dictatorship of Gen. Douglas MacArthur in the wake of World War II.

Both Japan and Vietnam have long histories of warfare with China, which China remembers all vividly.

We begin with some raw video from RT depicting Chinese naval maneuvers clearly designed to send a message:

RAW: Chinese navy holds massive combat drills in disputed South China Sea

Program notes:

Warships, supporting vessels and planes from China’s Northern, Eastern and Southern Fleet were mobilised for the exercises, according to CCTV. The exercises took place on Friday between Hainan Island and the Paracel Islands, known in China as Xisha Islands. The military drills come a few days ahead of an expected ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration, based in the Hague, on China’s disputed territorial claims. The case was brought by the Philippines.

The story from Reuters:

The Chinese navy conducted combat drills near its southern island province of Hainan and the Paracel islands in the South China Sea, the Ministry of Defense said on Saturday.

The drills come ahead of a July 12 ruling by the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration on a case brought by the Philippines disputing several of China’s territory claims in the South China Sea.

Ships from China’s northern, eastern and southern fleets participated in Friday’s drills, which focused on air control, surface operations and anti-submarine warfare, among other training exercises, the ministry said in a website statement.

China claims nearly all the South China Sea, but its claims overlap in part with those of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

China has repeatedly said it does not consider any decision reached by the arbitration court to be legally binding.

The Philippines back off from a conciliatory move:

For a couple of days this week an observer could grasp at one small straw, an apparent move by the new Philippine president hinting at a possible easing of tensions between two of the players.

But wait!

From the Japan Times:

The Philippines’ top diplomat appeared to walk back claims that Manila would be willing to share natural resources with Beijing in the disputed South China Sea — even if it wins a legal challenge next week, a brief statement on the Philippine Foreign Ministry’s website said Saturday.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay told Agency France-Presse in an interview Friday that the administration of new President Rodrigo Duterte “hoped to quickly begin direct talks with China” following Tuesday’s verdict, with an eye on jointly exploiting natural gas reserves and fishing grounds within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

On Saturday, however, Yasay was quick to issue a “rejoinder” to the interview.

“What I said is we have to wait for the ruling and study and dissect its implications,” he said in a statement on the ministry’s website.

“As the ruling will not address sovereignty and delimitation, it is possible that some time in the future, claimant countries might consider entering into arrangements such as joint exploration and utilization of resources in disputed areas that do not prejudice the parties’ claims and delimitation of boundaries in accordance with UNCLOS,” it added, referring to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Adam Zyglis: Trade agreement

From the editorial cartoonist of the Buffalo News:

July 6, 2016

July 6, 2016

And if you want to know why American workers are angry at the Obama administration for pursuing the noxious trade pact, let Sen. Elizabeth Warren explain, via CREDO Action:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren on why we need to stop the TPP

Program notes:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren exposes a dangerous and undemocratic provision of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) called “Investor State Dispute Settlement” or ISDS. Sen. Warren lays out in compelling detail how ISDS allows corporations to bypass traditional courts in favor of unaccountable, industry-friendly “arbitration panels.”

Join the fight to stop the TPP:

Tension eases in one Game of Zones relationship

While the U.S. is pushing Japan and Vietnam to step up military tensions in the China Seas, one traditional U.S. ally has taken a unilateral step to ease tensions with China.

The irony is that it’s a country which has just installed a tough law-and-order vigilante in its presidential palace.

From the Japan Times:

The Philippines is willing to share natural resources with Beijing in contested South China Sea areas even if it wins a legal challenge next week, Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay told AFP Friday.

Yasay said President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration hoped to quickly begin direct talks with China following Tuesday’s verdict, with the negotiations to cover jointly exploiting natural gas reserves and fishing grounds within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

“We can even have the objective of seeing how we can jointly explore this territory: how we can utilize and benefit mutually from the utilization of the resources in this exclusive economic zone where claims are overlapping,” Yasay said.

The Philippines, under Benigno Aquino’s previous administration, filed in 2013 a legal challenge with a U.N.-backed tribunal in The Hague contesting China’s claims to nearly all of the strategically vital sea.

Military tensions rise in the Asian Game of Zones

As the Obama administration’s “Asian pivot” accelerates in the waning months of his administration, tensions are continuing to rise, with military confrontations involving the U.S. , China, Japan, and the Philippines accelerating.

First up, a warning from Beijing, via Reuters:

China’s foreign minister spoke with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry by telephone on Wednesday ahead of a key international court ruling on China’s South China Sea claims and warned Washington against moves that infringe on China’s sovereignty, Beijing’s official Xinhua news agency reported.

Xinhua said Wang Yi repeated China’s rejection of the jurisdiction of the International Court of Arbitration in a case the Philippines has brought against China’s claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, calling it a “farce” that should come to an end.

The court, based in The Hague, is due to give its ruling on Tuesday, raising fears of confrontation in the region. U.S. officials say the U.S. response should China stick to its vow to ignore the ruling could include stepped up freedom-of-navigation patrols close to Chinese claimed islands in what is one of the world’s business trade routes.

In the call initiated by Kerry, Wang “urged the United States to honor its commitment to not to take sides on issues related to sovereign disputes, to be prudent with its actions and words, and not to take any actions that infringe upon the sovereignty and security interests of China,” Xinhua said.

U.S. ships test the limits

An American military response to the tensions is covered by the Navy Times:

U.S. Navy destroyers have been quietly stalking some of China’s man-made islands and claims in recent weeks ahead of a ruling on contested claims in the South China Sea.

Over the past two weeks, the destroyers Stethem, Spruance and Momsen have all patrolled near Chinese-claimed features at Scarborough Shoal and in the Spratly Islands, according to two defense officials.

“We have been regularly patrolling within the 14 to 20 nautical mile range of these features,” one official said, who asked for anonymity to discuss diplomatically-sensitive operations.

The distance is important because if the ships patrolled within 12 miles, the Navy would handle it as a freedom of navigation operation that asserts U.S. rights to freely operate in waters claimed by other countries.

Those FONOPS patrols must be approved at very high levels, but these close patrols outside of 12 miles are in international waters. Experts say the tactic serves as a message of resolve to the Chinese and U.S. allies in the region and is a deliberate show of force ahead of a major international ruling on the legality of some of China’s claims; Beijing claims nearly all of the South China Sea, setting up conflicts with its neighbors and the U.S.

China’s navy holds its own maneuvers

But China is holding its own exercises in the region, reports China Daily:

China said its naval drill in the South China Sea is within its sovereign rights, and it urged the Philippines to come back to the negotiating table to solve its maritime disputes with China regardless of an arbitrary tribunal’s ruling.

“The drill is a routine exercise the Chinese Navy carries out according to the annual plan. It is within China’s sovereign rights and is not targeting any specific countries,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Wednesday.

Hong made the remarks after Vietnam claimed the drill was violating Vietnamese sovereignty.

The Ministry of National Defense confirmed on Tuesday that China would hold a drill in the area between Hainan Island and the Xisha Islands in the first 10 days of July and that military equipment including multiple ships and fixed-wing aircraft would participate.

The Defense Ministry said the drill “aims at improving the military’s ability to respond to security threats and implement missions”.

“The Xisha Islands are China’s inherent territory. There is no dispute of this,” Hong reiterated on Wednesday. He asked the parties concerned to “objectively view” the drill.

More from Hawaii Public Radio:

China claims that a vast swath of water to its south and east has been Chinese since the Ming Dynasty and sent fishing fleets escorted by huge Coast Guard ships to slowly reclaim what it sees as its own territory.  This case dates to 2012, when they used water cannon to hose Philippine fishermen off their decks and seized Scarborough Shoal, almost due west of Manila.

China’s legal claim is based on a map produced by Nationalist China in 1947, which shows a nine-dash line extending south and east.  Due to its shape, it’s sometimes called the cow’s tongue.  In 2013, the Philippines filed suit with the Permanent Court of Arbitration, established under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.  While it’s a member of that treaty, China argues it does not apply in this case, refused to participate in the proceedings and declared it will not comply with any judgement.

Last week, Paul Reichler, an American lawyer who served as lead counsel for the Philippines told the Associated Press that while this ruling would only apply to China and the Philippines, “If the nine dash line is unlawful as applied by China against the Philippines, then logically, it is equally unlawful as applied by China against other states.” The US has a mutual defense treaty with the Philippines and sent warships into the disputed area in recent months to assert its claim, that the South China Sea is International waters, open to all.

After the jump, Taipei keeps watch, aerial confrontations between China and Japan, North Korean concerns continue, and a bright spot. . . Continue reading

Headline of the day: Awaiting the Guns of August?

From RT:

‘Price to pay for US’: Beijing ready to confront Washington if it intervenes in S.China Sea dispute

Beijing must prepare to make the US “pay a cost it can’t stand” if it intervenes in the South China Sea dispute by force, a state newspaper editorial has warned, days before a court at The Hague rules on the territorial row between China and the Philippines.

And if you’re wondering about our own postal headline, the reference is to the late Barbara Tuchman’s magisterial history of the events leading up to World War I. A film documentary based on her book is here.

Map of the day: South China Seas Game of Zones

From the Yomiuri Shimbun, China’s claims to sovereignty in the South China Seas, with the shaded regions contested by Philippines in the case of the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands disputed by Vietnam:

BLOG China