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East Asia

Donald Trump, Nuclear Issue and Nuclear War

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There were so many controversial statements made by Donald Trump during the United States Presidential Election, which makes many parties underestimated Trump’s chance to victory towards the White House. One of Trump’s controversial statements was during an exclusive interview with the New York Times on Sunday, 20 March 2016. Trump said if he is elected as US President, he would be open to Japan and South Korea producing their nuclear deterrent.

They should not always be depending on the US military to protect themselves from North Korea and China. The US military would not be able to protect Japan and South Korea for a long period of time. He argued that the US cannot always be the policemen of the world.

Trump also asserted that there will be a point where the US could not be able to do all that anymore. North Korea probably has their nuclear arsenal, so he would rather have Japan and South Korea having a nuclear capability too, as we are living in a nuclear world right now.

This controversial statement alarmed the world and received a strong reaction from various sides. President Obama, during the sidelines of Nuclear Security Summit in Washington on Friday, 1 April 2016, among others stated that all this time the US involvement in the Asia-Pacific region has been important. Because it is also the safeguard key that maintain the peace between the US and countries in that region up until now. Having US presence is very important to withstand any conflicts between each other. Therefore, Obama continued, the person (Donald Trump) who made such comments does not know much about policies, as well as nuclear policy, or the Korean peninsula, or even about the world in general. Japan and South Korea has been considered important as the pillars of US presence in Asia Pacific, as it advantaged the US quite substantially on the trade side, and prevent nuclear escalation and conflict.

Japan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fumio Kishida as quoted by CNN, also reacted by expressing his disagreement with Trump’s proposal, saying it is impossible for Japan to build a nuclear capability. Japan is the only country that has experienced a nuclear attack, and if they follow Trump’s proposal, there will be a chance that the Hiroshima and Nagasaki tragedy can happen again.

Contradict

Jonathan Cristal, a professor and observer from a think-thank agency, the World Policy Institute in New York, also commented by saying that Trump’s proposal is contrary to the government’s commitment to strengthen the alliance with various countries like Japan and South Korea, the two strongest allies in Southeast Asia. Cristal stated that Japan and South Korea will consider various options if true that the US is no longer protecting them. First option, Japan and South Korea will pay a protection fee to the US, similar to the way Estonia contributed 2% of their GDP to NATO for protection. Second option, Japan and South Korea will develop their own nuclear weapon. Cristal concluded his statement by saying if Trump ignored the US alliance in Asia and triggered Japan and South Korea to produce nuclear weapon, there will be a domino effect following to happen to other countries.

Trump’s statements is in fact denying international convention, which regulated in the NPT (Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty) set by the United Nations on 12 June 1968 in New York, and effective from 5 March 1950, and which the US ratified. Basically, the NPT consists of three pillars, namely: first, non-proliferation, i.e. nuclear-weapon states pledge not to add and must reduce as well as revoke/separate their nuclear warheads; second, disarmament, i.e. nuclear weapons eradication which non-nuclear-weapon states pledge not to acquire and manufacture nuclear weapons; third, peaceful use, that is nuclear energy serve only for peaceful purposes. As a matter of fact, the NPT was inspired by President Eisenhower, one of Donald Trump’s predecessors (also from the Republic Party), from his speech in the UN General Assembly session, 18 December 1953, entitled “Atom for Peace”.

Almost all states ratified the NPT except India, Pakistan, and Israel. North Korea ratified the NPT on 20 December 1985 and withdrawn from the treaty on 10 April 2003. On the other hand, after the NPT signing, there are only five states recognized as nuclear-weapon states, namely US, Russia, UK, France, and China.

We can have a different opinion with the above statement from Trump. But as the new US leader, Trump will do his best for the people of the US, to make US great again as promised in his campaign. Trump’s statement is probably due to some of the following. First, US reducing the burden as a country that has been a guarantor of the security of Japan and South Korea if attacked by other countries, and the focus right now came from China and North Korea; Second, renegotiating the terms of payment to be received by the US from having their troops on the ground, as many as 54.000 in Japan and 28.500 in South Korea, in which Japan paid USD 1.6 billion and South Korea USD 866 million annually; Third, creating a balance of power among nuclear-weapon states in East Asia, which is currently being monopolized by China and followed by North Korea; Fourth, if there is a nuclear race, triggered by Japan and South Korea, the US will be very much advantaged as the main supplier, although it would violate the NPT, which the US is one of the signatories. The US weapon industry is allegedly influenced by sympathizers of the Republican Party and many prominent figures from the Party are known to be belligerent. For example when President Nixon, the Vietnam War happened, President Reagan with his Star Wars concept and the bombing of Muammar Kaddafi’s residence, the leader of Libya, President Bush (senior and junior) the Afghanistan War and Iraq War broke out.

Fifth, diverting or creating East Asia as the new crisis region beside the Middle East, whereas the US will be benefited economically, politically, and militarily; sixth, balancing the military/arms advancement of China as well as to counter the aggressiveness of North Korea.

After the statement and announcement of Donald Trump as the winner of the US Presidential election, there is an interesting development that can be analyzed further. The development is the signing of a nuclear agreement/treaty between PM Shinzo Abe from Japan and PM Narendra Modi from India on 11 November 2016, in Tokyo. The content of the agreement/treaty is that for Japan companies to be able to export nuclear technologies to India. We know that the India and China relation has been hostile for a long time, and just recently the dispute and tension over Senkaku Island is also escalated. The Japan-India nuclear agreement gave a strong indication that both countries are on their way to creating an alliance, in parallel with strengthening the longstanding strategic alliances between the US, Japan and South Korea, to counter the expansive behavior of China and the aggressiveness North Korea. To neutralize the agreement and as not to arouse any suspicions based from Trump’s statement, PM Shinzo Abe stated that the agreement constitutes a legal framework to ensure that India is using its nuclear energy responsibly.

After the Donald Trump’s upcoming inauguration as the President of the US in 20 January 2017, it is hoped that Trump’s statement will not become his policy. The role of the UN to reassure Trump to comply with the NPT is very much needed, similarly to Japan and South Korea as member states of the Treaty, to adhere with the NPT and not to produce a nuclear weapon. As we know that Japan and South Korea are very advanced and have their grip on nuclear technology, so it will not be hard for both countries to produce a nuclear weapon.

If Trump remains on his stance and Japan and South Korea implement the idea, it will create a domino effect where other states in the Asia region will not stay idle. They will definitely take measures to keep and defend their sovereignty. There may be an ASEAN state that will extricate itself from the joint commitment of SEANWFZ (South East Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone) Treaty, putting its national interest above all else. On the other hand, China and North Korea will keep on competing to enhance their nuclear capabilities. As a result, the East Asia region, including ASEAN, will be a hot zone and it is not impossible that a Nuclear War may well be started from East Asia.

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East Asia

Nepal-China Boundary Treaty: An example of peaceful Himalayan frontiers

Birat Anupam

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image source: Chinese Embassy in Nepal

Chairman Mao: How is everything with Your Excellency? Have all the problems been solved?

King Mahendra: Everything is settled.

Chairman Mao: Fair and reasonable?

King Mahendra: Yes. We all agree.

Chairman Mao: It is good that we agree. There is goodwill on both sides. We hope that will get along well, and you hope we shall get along well too. We do not want to harm you, nor do you want to harm us.

King Mahendra: We fully understand.

Chairman Mao: We are equals; we cannot say one country is superior or inferior to the other.

King Mahendra: We very much appreciate the way of speaking.

This was a snippet of the candid conversation between founding father of People’s Republic of China Mao Zedong and Nepal’s the then king Mahendra on the historic Nepal-China Border Treaty day of 5 October 1961. A book titled ‘MAO ZEDUNG ON DIPLOMACY’ has detailed this conversation. The conversation is mentioned under the topic of ”Talk with Nepal’s king Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Deva and the queen’ (page 366 and 367) in the book.

This famous diplomatic book of Mao was compiled by The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China and the Party Literature Research Center under the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and was published by Foreign Languages Press Beijing on 1998.

This conversation, from the verbatim records, speaks volumes about the level of trust and the height of friendship between two neighbors Nepal and China.

Nepal-China boundary: An example of speedy settlement

Nepal and China boundary settlement has reached 59 years of its signing ceremony at Beijing. It is an extraordinary example of speedy settlement. Nepal and China formally established diplomatic relationship on 1 August 1955.

Few years later on 21 March 1960, Nepal and China signed Boundary Agreement. Nepal’s first democratically elected Prime Minister Bishweshwar Prashad Koirala signed it during the official China visit. The friendly diplomatic dialogue of Koirala and Mao is also included in the book ”MAO ZEDUNG ON DIPLOMACY’ under the topic of ”The Sino-Nepal Border Must be Peaceful and Friendly Forever.”  

On 5 October 1961, Nepal and China signed Boundary Treaty at Beijing during the state visit of the then king Mahendra. The 1414-kilometer-long border treaty protocol was finally inscribed on 20 January 1963.

The adjustment was made on equal footing by land-swapping with Nepal gaining more land than it gave. According to a working paper presented at ”International Cross-Border Conference on Border Regions in Transition (BRIT)-XII Fukuoka (Japan)-Busan (South Korea) 13-16 November 2012” by Nepal’s former Director General of Survey Department and the author of the book titled ‘Boundary of Nepal’, China had given 302.75 square kilometer more land to Nepal.

The paper says, ”the adjustment was made on the basis of ‘give’ and ‘take’ and the inclusion of some pasture land within Nepalese territory. With this principle, Nepal had given 1,836.25 square kilometer of land to China and Nepal had taken 2,139.00 square kilometer, as it has been added 302.75 square kilometer of Chinese territory into Nepal.”

Nepal-China border settlement is an excellent example of speedy border settlement compared to Nepal’s southern neighbor India. Since the formal diplomatic engagement of 1955, it just took around eight years to ink full-fledged technical border adjustment between Nepal and China.

Tragically, Nepal and India are at odds over the border demarked by 204-year-old Treaty of Sugauli. The recent issue of Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura and new political map of Nepal unanimously approved by lower and upper houses of the federal parliament point to the long-pending friendly border settlements between Nepal and India.

Media myths on China’s encroachment of Nepal’s territory

Nepal and India has not resolved much of their border tensions since long. Lately, there are some media reports, mainly from India, about so-called Chinese ‘encroachment’ of Nepal’s territory. There was report about missed pillar number 11. However, it came out to be untrue with the finding of the pillar.  After field inspection and technical studies, Chief District Officer of Humla district, Chiranjibi Giri, made it clear that the rumored border encroachment from China was not the fact.

Similar incident was reported few weeks ago when Nepal’s leading daily Kantipur claimed China’s encroachment of Nepal’s territory citing unverified Ministry of Agriculture, the ministry that has nothing to do with border issues. However, after formal clarification from Nepal Government, the report was found to be false and the biggest daily of the nation apologized.

There is a section in Nepal that desperately wants to draw parallel between factual Nepal-India border tensions with fictitious Nepal-China border rows. However, so far, this mission has proven wrong at times.

Nepal does not have any serious border tension with China. The only concern Nepal has it about China-India agreement to ‘boost border trade at Quiangla/Lipu-Lekh Pass’ as said in the 28th point of the  joint communiqué issued by visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang on 15 May 2015.

Nepal has diplomatically protested about this agreement by two countries as Lipulekh falls in Nepali territory not only based on the Treaty of Sugauli of 1816 but also the Nepal-China Boundary Treaty of 5 October 1961. Given China’s generosity and friendliness towards Nepal, it is not a big issue to address. Nepalese citizens are optimistic on China’s support on Nepal’s sovereignty over Lipulekh.

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East Asia

Why doesn’t China take India seriously?

Shalabh Chopra

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India needs to formulate a long-term strategy on China, lest it be lurching from one crisis to another.

Amid rising anti-China sentiment in the aftermath of the bloody border clash with China, India has announced a slew of measures to curtail Chinese presence in the Indian economy. Building on previously imposed restrictions on foreign direct investment (FDI) from China, the latest round of regulations constitute banning over 200 Chinese apps and clamping down on Chinese investments in Indian startups. These measures, while drawing applause from Western governments such as the US and helping massage the nationalistic ego, have seemingly failed to irk the Chinese administration as much as India would have intended, let alone compel the PLA to pull back from the disputed areas along the long and undemarcated Indo-China border. In previous instances as well, India’s signalling to China of allying more closely with the United States in response to China’s aggressive posture on the border has failed to yield desirable results. This begs the question: why does not China take India seriously? The answer may lie in India’s China policy which can be described as reactive at best and incoherent at worst.

India’s Policy Conundrum

Although its geopolitical rise has been significant – next only to China, India still finds itself bereft of a world order concept or a guiding foreign policy framework. The lack of which, when it comes to dealing with China, has translated into a foreign policy muddle. Mohan Malik, for instance, points out that there are three schools of thought in India’s policy-making with regards to China – pragmatism, hyperrealism, and appeasement. Pragmatists maintain that India should balance China both internally (increasing its economic and military strength w.r.t. China) and externally (by forging alliances and enhancing interstate cooperation with other powers) while mitigating differences through economic and diplomatic engagement. Hyperrealists decry pragmatists’ optimism that increased trade and economic engagement can win over a territorially unsatiated China and instead argue for an unabashed encirclement strategy towards it with other China-wary powers. Appeasers posit that China is a benign and friendly power, meaning no harm to India and that it should be enthusiastically engaged. In trying to accommodate such plethora of views in dealing with China, successive Indian governments have found themselves muddling through one approach to another.

Current Government and Policy Flip-Flops

Following the Galwan clash, India appears to be hinting at a change of tack as evinced by India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s repeated assertions that realism should shape India’s China policy and that peace and tranquillity on the border cannot be separated from the overall architecture of bilateral ties. India’s slashing of Chinese presence in the Indian economy suggests a move in that direction. China’s rather staid response to India’s manoeuvres stems from a general under appreciation of Indian resolve to follow through on such a policy initiative. China’s belief in Indian irresoluteness is not without basis either. The new dispensation led by Narendra Modi started off by trying to bring the “pragmatic” element more into play in India’s dealings with China. To this end, it resorted to a two-pronged strategy of bolstering strategic ties with other regional partners alarmed by China’s newfound boldness such as Vietnam, Japan, Indonesia, Australia among others and spurred up defense and strategic ties with the US, while simultaneously trying to improve relations with China by enhancing bilateral trade (which was already heavily-tilted in China’s favour). However, relations nosedived with the Doklam standoff in June 2017 which lasted for over three months. Cognizant of its power differential with China, and therefore not keen on antagonizing it any further, India broached the idea of organizing an informal summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and India’s PM Narendra Modi. As the two leaders met in picturesque Wuhan, India had by then made up its mind to drop the “pragmatic” yet somewhat “confrontational” approach and decided in favour of going full throttle with appeasement vis-à-vis China. Following the summit, the Indian government scaled down its contact with the Tibet’s India-based government-in-exile and refused to back Australia’s bid to participate in the annual Malabar exercise. What exactly did India hope to achieve with such tactics is anyone’s guess as China continued to brazenly oppose India’s membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and block India’s efforts to get Pakistan-based terrorist Masood Azhar admitted to the UN Sanctions list – eventually relenting on the latter (courtesy of US pressure) while continuing to hyphenate India’s cause with Pakistan’s in the case of former.

A Long History of Fluctuating China Policy

As a matter of fact, the blame for such a vacillating policy cannot be squarely put at Modi’s doorsteps. Historical precedents abound where previous Indian governments too have struggled to come up with a comprehensive and coherent strategy on China. Notable examples include Jawaharlal Nehru’s flip-flops on China threat which not only cost India loss of territory but also resulted in a personal loss of face for Nehru. Some twenty-five years later, Rajiv Gandhi who showed remarkable courage in standing up to the Chinese challenge in a serious military provocation along the eastern flank of the LAC let go of the chance to articulate India’s long-term strategy vis-à-vis China and instead sought a quick return to normalcy in bilateral ties following his visit to Beijing in 1988. A decade later, AB Vajpayee, after having justified India’s nuclear tests as a response to Chinese nuclear weapons, ended up describing China as a “good neighbour” in his address at the Peking University only a couple of years later. Indeed, India’s foreign policy history is riddled with complacency on the part of successive Indian governments in dealing with its largest neighbour, and a continual cause of strategic concern.

It is clear that unless India does away with policy ad-hocism and sticks with a clear, long-term China policy,it would not be able to effect a change in China’s attitude towards itself. In this regard, Jaishankar’s recoupling of economic and trade ties with the larger border question is a welcome move, but a lot would depend on how determined India is to persevere through the demanding nature of realpolitik.

Notes:

  1. Mohan Malik’s article on three schools of thought on India’s China policy: accessible at: https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a591916.pdf

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East Asia

India-China Relations: A Turbulent Future?

Leoni Connah

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On the 10th May 2020, Indian and Chinese troops engaged in a cross-border dispute in Sikkim. After built up tensions, a month later another clash began in The Galwan Valley. By September, shots had been fired for the first time in over 40 years. Such confrontations are the worst India and China have seen in recent years. Although face-offs between the two sides are not uncommon, border disputes do pose a challenge for Indian and Chinese security. Also, their economic relationship could be strained if the two rising giants do not resolve their territorial dispute. Therefore, this article looks at the recent tensions between the two states and considers what this means for the future of their bilateral relationship.

Where did it Begin?

The Sino-Indian war took place in 1962, when Indian and Chinese troops fought over the Himalayan territory of Aksai Chin. Aksai Chin is located between Tibet, Xinjiang and Ladakh and territory was the primary cause of the war, as well as other issues including sporadic violence. China had gradually exerted its influence over Aksai Chin for four years before the war. At the time, India placed its forces along the border, but China’s strategy was to launch a full-blown attack. China’s standpoint was that the territory they were fighting over was deemed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and they should have sovereignty over it. As India’s strategy was one of defence, they were outnumbered and lacked sufficient weaponry. Therefore, they suffered heavy casualties with many of the army killed, wounded, missing and captured. The war lasted until China announced a unilateral ceasefire on 21stNovember 1962.India was left defeated and humiliated as it was never prepared for a war with China. Until 1962, India had always focused on the security threat posed by Pakistan and had the upper hand militarily.

Cross-border Disputes

Since the 1962 war there have occurred numerous infrequent stand-offs between Indian armed forces and Chinese armed forces along the disputed territory. There is a competitive nature between the two states whereby these stand-offs become an opportunity to militarily flex their muscles. Episodes occurred in Northern Ladakh in 2013 and Eastern Ladakh in 2014. In 2017, the situation escalated when China attempted to form a road that would extend its border into India. India opposed this and feared that if the road was built, China would have increased access to the Siliguri Corridor, also known as the ‘chicken’s neck’. This is a highly contentious area for India as they believe it is a strategic asset to them because it connects the North Eastern states to the mainland. The high-altitude stand-off lasted for over a month. In September 2019, another violent clash took place near the Pangong Tso (lake), an area that China has control over two thirds of. The most recent disputes involved pushing, shoving, fists, wooden clubs, and stone throwing. The skirmish in May resulted in 11 injured in total, 4 Indian forces and 7 Chinese forces. It was resolved by local brigadier-level sector commanders who were able to discuss the tensions and come to a resolution. However, the clash in June saw 20 Indian soldiers dead and up to 40 Chinese casualties. In late July, it was believed that troops were withdrawing from the border region. However, this remained incomplete and throughout August and September, Indian troops were continuing to deploy along the LAC. For over 40 years, no bullets were fired in these skirmishes because of the de facto border code that prohibits the use of firearms. However, this changed in September when the first shots were fired. The most recent disputes are believed to have been triggered by a disagreement over the location of Chinese observation towers and tents. It seems, tensions have been building since India’s revocation of Article 370 in 2019 and China’s resistance against India’s infrastructure plans in the borderlands.

A Turbulent Future?

In 2018, PM Modi and President Jinping agreed to maintain peace along the border at the Wuhan summit. India and China’s collective economies make up over 17% of the entire global economy. Also, China is India’s primary trading partner with annual trade worth $92 billion. They have attempted to increase cooperation and build confidence measures by undertaking joint projects including a training program for Afghan diplomats and reviving the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) corridor. However, these efforts are undermined by the pervasive feeling of distrust between the two states and the echoes of Cold War history. Also, the summits and efforts of cooperation have not stopped the outbreaks of violence, nor have they solved any of the underlying issues. Underlying issues that strain the Sino-Indian relationship include nuclear weapons, China’s support for Pakistan, the situation in Tibet and India’s sheltering of the Dalai Lama, the Chinese navy making an appearance in Indian waters and Indian foreign policy. The Covid-19 pandemic has added pressure to Sino-Indian relations as the Indian general public blame China for the outbreak thus causing an anti-China sentiment. Both states have downplayed the recent stand-off’s as short-term and temporary incidents. However, if relations continue to sour over territorial boundaries and the border remains unresolved, this could compromise their economic relationship. To prevent prolonged crisis, China would need to withdraw its aggressive position voluntarily through peaceful negotiations with India. India could attempt a forceful removal of Chinese forces, but that would lead to increased escalation. Further, India should tread with caution as neighbouring countries including Sri Lanka and Nepal are becoming increasingly supportive of China. In other words, unless India and China find a way to trust each other, it is highly likely that they will be pushed to the brink of war once again.

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