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China, Russia support North Korea, urge USA for talks at UN

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Russia and China – allies of North Korea- have strongly defended the nuclear actions of North Korea. The latest Hydrogen Bomb test has sent tremors across the western world represented by the NATO. USA, Japan and South Korea have condemned the missile firing in the strongest possible ways.

China has once again urged diplomatic talks to address the crisis with an emerging nuclear power North Korea and warned at the UN Security Council that it will not allow chaos and war on the Korean peninsula.

Chinese Ambassador Liu Jieyi said that the situation on the peninsula is deteriorating constantly as we speak, falling into a vicious circle. “The peninsula issue must be resolved peacefully. China will never allow chaos and war on the peninsula.” His appeal was echoed by Russia, which said that diplomatic negotiations were the only way to settle the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said there was “an urgent need to maintain a cool head and refrain from any action that could further escalate tensions.” Russia backs China’s proposal for a freeze on North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests in exchange for a suspension of US-South Korea military drills.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley however rejected the proposal as “insulting” and said it was time to ratchet up the pressure on North Korea by enacting the “strongest possible measures.” “When a rogue regime has a nuclear weapon and an ICBM pointed at you, you do not take steps to lower your guard. No one would do that. We certainly won’t,” she declared.

Russia and China did not specify whether they would support additional sanctions on North Korea. The communist state has test-fired dozens of missiles and conducted three underground nuclear tests over the past year and a half in defiance of punishing UN Security Council sanctions and diplomatic pressure. It also has tens of thousands of soldiers and artillery positioned near the heavily fortified border that divides the peninsula.

The USA, Britain, France, Japan and South Korea requested the urgent meeting after North Korea detonated what it described as a hydrogen bomb designed for a long-range missile.

South Korea’s defense ministry warned Monday that Pyongyang may be preparing another missile launch after two tests in July of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that apparently brought the US mainland into range.

Meanwhile, North Korea has been observed moving what appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) towards its west coast, South Korea’s Asia Business Daily reported, citing an unidentified intelligence source. The rocket started moving a day after North Korea’s sixth nuclear (Hydrogen) test, and was spotted moving at night to avoid surveillance, the report said. North Korea has launch facilities for its missile program on its west coast. South Korea’s defence ministry said they were unable to confirm the contents of the report. The ministry said in parliament that North Korea was considered ready to launch more missiles, including ICBMs, at any time.

South Korea is seen taking retaliatory steps to stop north from moving further with its nuclear blasts. Its defense minister said it was worth reviewing the redeployment of American tactical nuclear weapons to the Korean Peninsula to guard against the North, a step that analysts warn would sharply increase the risk of an accidental conflict.

And even as concern over Korea deepened following North Korea’s huge nuclear test Sunday, South Korea’s defense ministry said that Pyongyang might be preparing to launch another missile into the Pacific Ocean, perhaps an intercontinental ballistic missile theoretically capable of reaching the mainland USA.

USA also feels the heat. In New York, Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was “begging for war.” President Donald Trump and his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, spoke on the phone for 40 minutes, some 34 hours after the nuclear test and more than 24 hours after Trump took to twitter to criticize Moon’s “talk of appeasement.” The two agreed to remove the limit on allowed payloads for South Korean missiles — something Seoul had been pushing for – as a way to increase deterrence against North Korea, according to a read-out of the phone call from South Korea’s Blue House. They also agreed to work together to punish North Korea for Sunday’s nuclear test, including by pushing for tougher sanctions through the United Nations. In a later phone call, Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel came to the same conclusion.

At a Security Council meeting, Haley pressed for the “strongest possible” sanctions against the North for openly challenging American power. . She did not spell out US proposals or how she would overcome the objections of veto-wielding permanent members China and Russia. But she cautioned, war is never something her country wants. “We don’t want it now. But our country’s patience is not unlimited. We will defend our allies and our territory.”

Haley ruled out the “freeze for freeze” proposal backed by China and Russia, which would suspend US joint military exercises with South Korea in return for suspension of North Korean nuclear and missile tests. “When a ‘rogue’ regime has a nuclear weapon and an ICBM pointed at you, you do not take steps to lower your guard. No one would do that. We certainly won’t,” she said. Instead, she reiterated a White House threat to cut off trade with any countries that also trade with North Korea. That would presumably include China, with which the USA had nearly $650 billion worth of trade in goods and services last year. She said the USA will look at every country that does business with North Korea as a country that is giving aid to their reckless and dangerous nuclear intentions.

Haley‘s remarks appeared to be unpersuasive. Russia’s UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, said. China will never allow chaos and war” in Korea, said Liu Jieyi, the Chinese ambassador to the UN Sanctions alone will not solve the crisis.

Meanwhile, South Korea, under pressure from Washington, is ready to install four more launchers to complete the deployment of a controversial US missile-defense system to counter the growing threat from the North, the defense ministry said. The ministry made the announcement as tensions spiked following North Korea’s sixth nuclear test, which raised fears of military confrontation as the United States warned all options are on the table in dealing with the communist state. It didn’t give a date but suggested the remaining launchers would be installed soon.

US Forces Korea began deploying the anti-missile battery known as THAAD with two launchers and the radar in late April in an overnight operation that many saw as an effort to rush it into place before May 9 elections to replace ousted President Park Geun-hye. It made the THAAD agreement with Washington despite local protests and objections from China, which fears the system’s powerful radar could be used against it as well.

New SK President Moon Jae-in suspended the THAAD deployment shortly after taking office but reversed that decision as the North conducted increasingly advanced missile tests and rebuffed his efforts to pursue dialogue. Moon said the installment could be completed at least on a temporary basis pending a full environmental assessment of the site. The final administrative hurdle was cleared when the environmental ministry said that it has given conditional consent after finding the adverse impact on the area from THAAD was limited. The Ministry of National Defense then said it “is planning to deploy the four additional launchers temporarily sooner or later in order to cope with North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threats.”

One thing is very clear. USA would not dare attack North Korea chiefly because Russia and China, tow veto powers, oppose any such American misadventures. Pentagon would not switch on its terror machinery towards Pyongyang chiefly because North Korea is not Afghanistan. True, North Korea is seen in Washington challenging the US military power, knowing full well it had terror attacked Japan with its newly invented atomic bombs several decades ago and destabilized a powerful Iraq under Saddam Hussein and assassinating him in the crudest manner.

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East Asia

Importance of peace in Afghanistan is vital for China

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image source: chinamission.be

There are multiple passages from Afghanistan to China, like Wakhan Corridor that is 92 km long, stretching to Xinjiang in China. It was formed in 1893 as a result of an agreement between the British Empire and Afghanistan. Another is Chalachigu valley that shares the border with Tajikistan to the north, Pakistan to the south, and Afghanistan to the west. It is referred to as the Chinese part of the Wakhan Corridor. However, the Chinese side of the valley is closed to the public and only local shepherds are allowed. Then there is Wakhjir Pass on the eastern side of the Wakhan corridor but is not accessible to the general public. The terrain is rough on the Afghan side. There are no roads along the Wakhjir Pass, most of the terrain is a dirt track. Like other passages, it can only be accessed via either animals or SUVs, and also due to extreme weather it is open for only seven months throughout the year. North Wakhjir Pass, also called Tegermansu Pass, is mountainous on the border of China and Afghanistan. It stretches from Tegermansu valley on the east and Chalachigu Valley in Xinjiang. All of these passages are extremely uncertain and rough which makes them too risky to be used for trade purposes. For example, the Chalagigu valley and Wakhjir Pass are an engineering nightmare to develop, let alone make them viable.

Similarly, the Pamir mountain range is also unstable and prone to landslides. Both of these routes also experience extreme weather conditions. Alternatives: Since most of the passages are risky for travel, alternatively, trade activities can be routed via Pakistan. For example, there is an access road at the North Wakhjir that connects to Karakoram Highway.

By expanding the road network from Taxkorgan in Xinjiang to Gilgit, using the Karakoram Highway is a probable option. Land routes in Pakistan are already being developed for better connectivity between Islamabad and Beijing as part of CPEC. These routes stretch from Gwadar up to the North.

The Motorway M-1, which runs from Islamabad to Peshawar can be used to link Afghanistan via Landi Kotal. Although the Karakoram highway also suffers from extreme weather and landslides, it is easier for engineers to handle as compared to those in Afghanistan.

China is the first door neighbor of Afghanistan having a common border. If anything happens in Afghanistan will have a direct impact on China. China has a declared policy of peaceful developments and has abandoned all disputes and adversaries for the time being and focused only on economic developments. For economic developments, social stability and security is a pre-requisite. So China emphasizes peace and stability in Afghanistan. It is China’s requirement that its border with Afghanistan should be secured, and restrict movements of any unwanted individuals or groups. China is compelled by any government in Afghanistan to ensure the safety of its borders in the region.

Taliban has ensured china that, its territory will not use against China and will never support any insurgency in China. Based on this confidence, China is cooperating with the Taliban in all possible manners. On the other hand, China is a responsible nation and obliged to extend humanitarian assistance to starving Afghans. While, the US is coercing and exerting pressures on the Taliban Government to collapse, by freezing their assets, and cutting all economic assistance, and lobbying with its Western allies, for exerting economic pressures on the Taliban, irrespective of human catastrophe in Afghanistan. China is generously assisting in saving human lives in Afghanistan. Whereas, the US is preferring politics over human lives in Afghanistan.

The US has destroyed Afghanistan during the last two decades, infrastructure was damaged completely, Agriculture was destroyed, Industry was destroyed, and the economy was a total disaster. While, China is assisting Afghanistan to rebuild its infrastructure, revive agriculture, industrialization is on its way. Chinese mega initiative, Belt and Road (BRI) is hope for Afghanistan.

A peaceful Afghanistan is a guarantee for peace and stability in China, especially in the bordering areas. The importance of Afghan peace is well conceived by China and practically, China is supporting peace and stability in Afghanistan. In fact, all the neighboring countries, and regional countries, are agreed upon by consensus that peace and stability in Afghanistan is a must and prerequisite for whole regions’ development and prosperity.

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Shared Territorial Concern, Opposition to US Intervention Prompt Russia’s Support to China on Taiwan Question

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image credit: kremlin.ru

The situation around the island of Taiwan is raising concerns not only in Chinese mainland, Taiwan island or in the US, but also in the whole world. Nobody would like to see a large-scale military clash between China and the US in the East Pacific. Potential repercussions of such a clash, even if it does not escalate to the nuclear level, might be catastrophic for the global economy and strategic stability, not to mention huge losses in blood and treasure for both sides in this conflict.

Earlier this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that Moscow continued to firmly support Beijing’s position on Taiwan as an integral part of China. Moreover, he also underlined that Moscow would support Beijing in its legitimate efforts to reunite the breakaway province with the rest of the country. A number of foreign media outlets paid particular attention not to what Lavrov actually said, but omitted his other remarks: the Russian official did not add that Moscow expects reunification to be peaceful and gradual in a way that is similar to China’s repossession of Hong Kong. Many observers of the new Taiwan Straits crisis unfolding concluded that Lavrov’s statement was a clear signal to all parties of the crisis: Russia would likely back even Beijing’s military takeover of the island.

Of course, diplomacy is an art of ambiguity. Lavrov clearly did not call for a military solution to the Taiwan problem. Still, his remarks were more blunt and more supportive of Beijing than the standard Russia’s rhetoric on the issue. Why? One possible explanation is that the Russian official simply wanted to sound nice to China as Russia’s major strategic partner. As they say, “a friend in need is a friend indeed.” Another explanation is that Lavrov recalled the Russian experience with Chechnya some time ago, when Moscow had to fight two bloody wars to suppress secessionism in the North Caucasus. Territorial integrity means a lot for the Russian leadership. This is something that is worth spilling blood for.

However, one can also imagine that in Russia they simply do not believe that if things go really bad for Taiwan island, the US would dare to come to its rescue and that in the end of the day Taipei would have to yield to Beijing without a single shot fired. Therefore, the risks of a large-scale military conflict in the East Pacific are perceived as relatively low, no matter what apocalyptic scenarios various military experts might come up with.

Indeed, over last 10 or 15 years the US has developed a pretty nasty habit of inciting its friends and partners to take risky and even reckless decisions and of letting these friends and partners down, when the latter had to foot the bill for these decisions. In 2008, the Bush administration explicitly or implicitly encouraged Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili to launch a military operation against South Ossetia including killing some Russian peacekeepers stationed there. But when Russia interfered to stop and to roll back the Georgian offensive, unfortunate Saakashvili was de-facto abandoned by Washington.

During the Ukrainian conflicts of 2013-14, the Obama administration enthusiastically supported the overthrow of the legitimate president in Kiev. However, it later preferred to delegate the management of the crisis to Berlin and to Paris, abstaining from taking part in the Normandy process and from signing the Minsk Agreements. In 2019, President Donald Trump promised his full support to Juan Guaidó, Head of the National Assembly in Venezuela, in his crusade against President Nicolas when the government of Maduro demonstrated its spectacular resilience. Juan Guaido very soon almost completely disappeared from Washington’s political radar screens.

Earlier this year the Biden administration stated its firm commitment to shouldering President Ashraf Ghani in Afghanistan in his resistance to Taliban advancements. But when push came to shove, the US easily abandoned its local allies, evacuated its military personal in a rush and left President Ghani to seek political asylum in the United Arab Emirates.

Again and again, Washington gives reasons to conclude that its partners, clients and even allies can no longer consider it as a credible security provider. Would the US make an exception for the Taiwan island? Of course, one can argue that the Taiwan island is more important for the US than Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ukraine and Georgia taken together. But the price for supporting the Taiwan island could also be much higher for the US than the price it would have paid in many other crisis situations. The chances of the US losing to China over Taiwan island, even if Washington mobilizes all of its available military power against Beijing, are also very high. Still, we do not see such a mobilization taking place now. It appears that the Biden administration is not ready for a real showdown with Beijing over the Taiwan question.

If the US does not put its whole weight behind the Taiwan island, the latter will have to seek some kind of accommodation with the mainland on terms abandoning its pipe-dreams of self-determination and independence. This is clear to politicians not only in East Asia, but all over the place, including Moscow. Therefore, Sergey Lavrov has reasons to firmly align himself with the Chinese position. The assumption in the Kremlin is that Uncle Sam will not dare to challenge militarily the Middle Kingdom. Not this time.

From our partner RIAC

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Russia-Japan Relations: Were Abe’s Efforts In Vain?

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Expanding the modest elements of trust in the Japan-Russia relationship, talking through reciprocal concerns before they lead to conflict, avoiding bilateral incidents, and engaging in mutually beneficial economic cooperation is the way forward.

One year after the end of Shinzo Abe’s long period of leadership, Japan has a new prime minister once again. The greatest foreign policy challenge the new Japanese government led by Fumio Kishida is facing is the intensifying confrontation between its large neighbor China and its main ally America. In addition to moves to energize the Quad group to which Japan belongs alongside Australia, India, and the United States, U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has concluded a deal with Canberra and London to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines which in future could patrol the Western Pacific close to Chinese shores. The geopolitical fault lines in the Indo-Pacific region are fast turning into frontlines.

In this context, does anything remain of the eight-year-long effort by former prime minister Abe to improve relations with Russia on the basis of greater economic engagement tailored to Moscow’s needs? Russia’s relations with China continue to develop, including in the military domain; Russia’s constitutional amendments passed last year prohibit the handover of Russian territory, which doesn’t bode well for the long-running territorial dispute with Japan over the South Kuril Islands; and Russian officials and state-run media have been remembering and condemning the Japanese military’s conduct during World War II, something they chose to play down in the past. True, Moscow has invited Tokyo to participate in economic projects on the South Kuril Islands, but on Russian terms and without an exclusive status.

To many, the answer to the above question is clear, and it is negative. Yet that attitude amounts to de facto resignation, a questionable approach. Despite the oft-cited but erroneous Cold War analogy, the present Sino-American confrontation has created two poles in the global system, but not—at least, not yet—two blocs. Again, despite the popular and equally incorrect interpretation, Moscow is not Beijing’s follower or vassal. As a power that is particularly sensitive about its own sovereignty, Russia seeks to maintain an equilibrium—which is not the same as equidistance—between its prime partner and its main adversary. Tokyo would do well to understand that and take it into account as it structures its foreign relations.

The territorial dispute with Russia is considered to be very important for the Japanese people, but it is more symbolic than substantive. In practical terms, the biggest achievement of the Abe era in Japan-Russia relations was the founding of a format for high-level security and foreign policy consultations between the two countries. With security issues topping the agenda in the Indo-Pacific, maintaining the channel for private direct exchanges with a neighboring great power that the “2+2” formula offers is of high value. Such a format is a trademark of Abe’s foreign policy which, while being loyal to Japan’s American ally, prided itself on pursuing Japanese national interests rather than solely relying on others to take them into account.

Kishida, who for five years served as Abe’s foreign minister, will now have a chance to put his own stamp on the country’s foreign policy. Yet it makes sense for him to build on the accomplishments of his predecessor, such as using the unique consultation mechanism mentioned above to address geopolitical and security issues in the Indo-Pacific region, from North Korea to Afghanistan. Even under Abe, Japan’s economic engagement with Russia was by no means charity. The Russian leadership’s recent initiatives to shift more resources to eastern Siberia offer new opportunities to Japanese companies, just like Russia’s early plans for energy transition in response to climate change, and the ongoing development projects in the Arctic. In September 2021, the annual Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok did not feature top-level Japanese participation, but that should be an exception, not the rule.

Japan will remain a trusted ally of the United States for the foreseeable future. It is also safe to predict that at least in the medium term, and possibly longer, the Russo-Chinese partnership will continue to grow. That is no reason for Moscow and Tokyo to regard each other as adversaries, however. Moreover, since an armed conflict between America and China would spell a global calamity and have a high chance of turning nuclear, other major powers, including Russia and Japan, have a vital interest in preventing such a collision. Expanding the still very modest elements of trust in the Japan-Russia relationship, talking through reciprocal concerns before they lead to conflict, avoiding bilateral incidents, and engaging in mutually beneficial economic cooperation is the way forward. The absence of a peace treaty between the two countries more than seventy-five years after the end of the war is abnormal, yet that same unfinished business should serve as a stimulus to persevere. Giving up is an option, but not a good one.

From our partner RIAC

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