On October 21 last, the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China began their joint exercises in the Sea of Okhotsk, the most suitable maritime area to hit the US bases in the Pacific.
It may seem strange – but it is not so for those who look to the issue carefully- that in the same days there was a Sino-Russian joint naval-air-land action in the North Sea.
It is by no mere coincidence.
The Sino-Soviet joint operation in Asia took place after checking President Trump’s statements at the United Nations on September 19 last, when he had claimed he could “completely destroy” North Korea and its nuclear stations.
The more Trump is in military contrast with North Korea, as well as with China and Russia, two of the major military fleets after the United States – although this assessment is no longer fully true – the more Putin and Xi Jinping take joint action to indirectly defend North Korea, the terrestrial axis of their security against the possible US penetration from the Korean peninsula and the nearby areas.
North Korea is the point where the Sino-Russian security is weaker, at least for the time being. Hence, regardless of the North Korean leader’s assessment, both Putin and Xi Jinping convey incontrovertible signs to the United States.
The message conveyed is the following: do not touch our border north of South Korea, which is too full of US soldiers and nuclear bombs.
It is by no mere coincidence that the Sino-Russian joint training operations began on both national territories exactly on September 18 last.
The joint exercises – formally started on September 18, the day when Trump had brought the world leaders together to discuss the UN reform – were organized with a sequence of operations less than 100 miles off the North Korean coast.
This happened while the Chinese ships came to the bay of Peter the Great, outside the port of Vladivostok and while the United States, Japan and South Korea carried out operations to simulate an aircraft attack on North Korea with B1B bombers, as well as four F-35 fighters from Japan and two other ones from Guam.
Four other South Korean F-15K fighters added to the operation already underway but – before the UN Security Council meeting and after the bilateral USA-Japan-South Korea and Russia-China exercises – the US Ambassador to China reported that China “would never accept North Korea as a nuclear State.”
It will never accept a nuclear State, but it will certainly accept a buffer State against South Korea, a US and a quasi-nuclear base.
This means that China does not want a strategic threat on its border, nor a structural weakening and full denuclearization of North Korea, which would pave the way for the hegemony of the United States and South Korea (which is de facto a nuclear State) over Southern China and the South-Western maritime border of the Russian Federation, which is short but of utmost strategic importance to it.
China has not officially accepted that the United States could put pressures on it to convince North Korea to lower the threshold of its military programme.
China attaches particular importance to form and it does not certainly want to be “second” to the United States in the Korean peninsula.
Conversely, the true Chinese project is to reduce the North Korean missile, nuclear and chemical-bacteriological umbrella to create a friendly shield towards its Southern stations. This would ensure full strategic autonomy also to North Korea.
Nor should we forget that China accounts for 90% of North Korean trade and economy.
The United States has also a stealth base in Japan, from which aircrafts only partially protected and covered by North Korean and Chinese radars can leave.
The United States has also a base in Kadena, on the Japanese island of Okinawa. Nevertheless, as demonstrated in their joint manoeuvres, China and Russia can immediately show five major ships, two nuclear submarines and some support ships.
China, which is traditionally cautious in the manoeuvres showing its strength off, sent three surface ships and two support submarines.
In short, the “long arm” of the US Navy cannot do much against the mix of Russian and Chinese naval forces in the region which, in the event of a final US action, would defend North Korea as if it were their metropolitan territory.
Russia and China are close, the United States and Japan not.
On top of it, South Korea does not want to definitively sacrifice itself to “democratize” North Korea.
Hence Russia and China will never accept a “serious” Western and Japanese military operation on the Korean territory. They have said so in all possible military languages. On the contrary, as Xi Jinping and Putin underlined in the meeting they held in Moscow on July 5, they want “to cool the North Korean programme down”, in connection with a substantial denuclearization of South Korea and, above all, of the Japanese areas in the Pacific Ocean.
The United States has 35,000 soldiers in South Korea and 40,000 in Japan, deployed in eleven bases, many of which very close to North Korea and, above all, to the Chinese coast.
As was easy to imagine, Trump’s tour in the region was interpreted as a scarcely friendly sign by North Korea.
The North Korean leadership always speaks about the “huge US power in the region” – and this is not just propaganda. It also recalls the long story of the unresolvable conflict of the 38th parallel, which was a show of strength of the Korean Army and the Chinese forces, as well the attack and capture of the “Pueblo” spy ship in 1968, whose sailors were released after a long negotiation between North Korea and the United States on December 23, 1968.
North Korea’s propaganda continues with other examples of US weakness in defying its seas and skies. Indeed, I do not care about the sequence of North Korea’s victories.
It should be noted, however, that the United States must finally accept a share of North Korea’s defence on all sides, in relation to the protection that Russia – which is not always co-ordinated with China – will wish to provide to their buffer State in the Korean peninsula, while North Korea shall eventually agree on a wide protection area for its defence apparatus, which will mean integration with the Russian and Chinese economies, in particular.
The United States will deal with the South Korean border, now drilled and crossed by many new tunnels, in addition to those who are now visited tourists, while the North Korean-Russian-Chinese axis will control – with possibilities of credible threats and retaliation – the entire Southern China Sea and the South Pacific, by defusing the US bases in the region and threatening the rational rearmament of the Japanese “Self-Defence Forces”.
For Shinzo Abe that wanted it, the reform of the Japanese “pacifist” Constitution is a delicate balance in making the United States understand that Japan is a good proxy army in the Pacific, while it shall soon leave for economic crisis or other reasons; and that Japan, in particular- if it reams itself – is the true bulwark against China.
Paradoxically Japan reasons in the same way as North Korea: it no longer trusts a seventy-year-old equilibrium and wants to military balance – on its own – the economic integration with China and South-East Asia, where the United States has completely different aims than Japan.
With a view to countering this project, we would need much more than President Trump’s polemic against the North Korean “weapons of mass destruction” – a script for failure already seen at work against Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
This happened after his weakening with a ten-year war against Khomeini’s Iran, when even the United States had forced the Shah to “democratic elections,” which were to overthrow him, and while US State Department emissaries ordered to Artesh, the Iranian army, to stage a coup against the Shah himself.
The lesson that Kim Jong-Un has learnt from the United States is that of the Balkans and Iraq – and it is very hard for someone to make him change his mind.
We would need a clear declaration recognizing the State of North Korea to open a channel to put pressure on China and Russia in North Korea. We would also need nuclear talks like the Six Party Talks, exactly where they ended in 2007, when North Korea agreed to close its nuclear facilities in exchange for fuel and “steps forward” towards mutual recognition between North Korea, the United States and Japan.
Still a good start, to which we could add some economic actions that could integrate North Korea in the European markets, as well as the Japanese and Sino-Russian ones.
We should fully assess the North Korean production formula to include it in the matrix of economic internationalization that currently characterizes the whole South-East Asia with different and symbiotic productive structures.
The letter sent by North Korea to the President of the UN Security Council – later filed as document A/72/545-S/2017/882, both for the UN Security Council and for the UN Assembly on October 28 – must be seen in this sense.
In said letter North Korea pointed out that the naval and air operations organized by the United States and its allies in the Pacific could be defined as “acts of war”.
From a certain viewpoint, this is legally legitimate.
Later the aforementioned North Korean document was handed out as official document of the Council on October 30.
Furthermore, another North Korean official document shows that the country will not accept the recent charge of “money laundering” directed to it, because – if the financial transactions are designed to purchase technologies or military components for self-defence – there is no infringement of the rules of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) established, exactly for North Korea, in the FATF meeting held in Buenos Aires On November 1-3 last.
With specific reference to the sanctions against North Korea, the United States can currently hit the textile, the banking and the fishing sectors.
It is also said that China advised its banks and financial companies to block trade with North Korea.
Furthermore, Europe added to the sanctions already decided by the United Nations also a ridiculous block of trade for luxury goods and purebred horses.
Ironically, since the current year the North Korean economy has been growing by 4%, the fastest rate over the last seven years.
Certainly, China’s “covert” market network has been widely used in these years of sanctions, while Chinese banks have done everything – through the Chinese companies – to link North Korea to the global market.
From this viewpoint, there is no hope for an effective regime of sanctions against North Korea.
Too important for Russia and inevitable for China, which would like to see it powerful enough to close its Southern border, but not too nuclearized to force it to negotiate with North Korea.
Hence either North Korea is accepted as regional nuclear power or it is destroyed with nuclear weapons.
Moreover, the US propaganda itself, which sometimes emphasizes the need for a “preventive nuclear attack” against North Korea is a demonstration – according to the same and opposite propaganda of North Korea – of the “necessary” military autonomy of Kim Jong-Un’s Korea.
North Korea also believes that the very presence of US military bases, both in South Korea and elsewhere in the Pacific, is in itself a threat to its strategic autonomy.
This is also true, but here Kim Jong Un speaks on behalf of China and, partly, of Russia, which is less interested in the South Pacific, but considers the non-hegemonic freedom of the region a necessary protection for the Russian operations between the Kurili Islands and Siberia.
According to its official documents, North Korea “is careful in observing the US movements and the renewal of the US forces and its allies in the Pacific”.
This is the right time to rethink new “Six Party Talks” to: a) set the limits of the US direct hegemony in the South Pacific; b) set the limits of the North Korean nuclear power, if this can still play a real protection role; c) establish official relations between the United States and North Korea, and also with Japan; d) provide the economic support to the differentiation of the North Korean production system, which could find itself better in the world market than as Russian and Chinese sub-supplier.
High time for India to Reconsider the One-China Policy
Sino-Indian bilateral relations have seen major challenges in the recent years, beginning with the Doklam crisis to the current pandemic situation. The sugar-coated rhetoric of Beijing proved to be mere duplicity after tensions erupted along the Line of Actual Control where soldiers of both the states clashed in mid-2020, resulting in the martyrdom of several Indian jawans including a commanding officer. The other side also saw several casualties, though Beijing has kept the actual count under wraps. More recently, China suspended the state-run Sichuan Airlines cargo planes carrying medical supplies to India for 15 days citing the deteriorating situation in India due to COVID-19. This was after the Chinese government promised all the necessary help for India to battle the pandemic.
The People’s Republic of China under the leadership of Xi Jinping has been maintaining an aggressive posture with India even while making calls for ‘maintaining peace’. Its support for all-weather friend Pakistan has attained new peaks when it proclaimed the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor under the Belt and Road Initiative passing through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, a territory claimed by India, despite New Delhi’s staunch opposition. It is in the light of all these events that the calls of the strategic community in India to review the recognition of One China policy has gained some attention.
India’s Sensitivity versus China’s Duplicity
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) under the Communist Party of China (CPC) claims itself as the only representative of the Chinese nation including the territories of Tibet and Taiwan among others. Any country having formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, also known as Republic of China shall be seen by China as challenging its sovereignty. The same parameter applies to any country recognizing Tibet or similar ‘autonomous regions’ under the Chinese control. This is known as the ‘One China Principle’ or ‘One China Policy’. India was one of the first countries to recognize the PRC in 1949 after the civil war as well as to accord recognition to its occupation of Tibet. However, China claims the whole of India’s Arunachal Pradesh as ‘South Tibet’, a claim that India has always rebuffed. Moreover, it occupies Aksai Chin which it captured during the 1962 war as well as the Shaksgam valley, ceded illegally to it by Pakistan in 1963.
Even after the war and the re-establishment of cordial bilateral relations, China has continued to repeat its illegitimate claims and nibble into India’s territory. India’s protests fell on deaf ears and this is despite India recognizing the One China Policy. India stopped mentioning the policy since 2010 in its public announcements and publications, however, without repealing it. Taking undue advantage of this China pays little concern to Indian sentiments. This view in India, to challenge China’s One China Policy, has been strengthened by aggressive diplomatic postures of China as well as its regular incursions along the disputed border while continuing to support Islamabad on all fronts – overtly and covertly, encircling India.
The government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi refused to give in to the bullying attempts by China by allowing the Army to go ahead with offensive countermeasures against Chinese incursions in 2017 as well as in 2020, in addition to taking measures including banning dozens of Chinese mobile applications. It has also started actively taking part in initiatives like Quadrilateral Dialogue as well as strengthening relations with ASEAN states. However, a dominant section within the strategic community in India feel that these measures are not enough to knock China into its senses.
Challenging the One China Policy
The most significant among the measures suggested in this regard has been to review India’s adherence to the One China policy. In an atmosphere where China does not recognize the One India policy comprising of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh as Indian territories, experts argue the need of reciprocity. Initiatives such as providing greater global visibility and access for Tibetans including the 14th Dalai Lama, using Buddhist history and traditions as a trump card since New Delhi has the advantage of having the Dalai Lama on its side, provides legitimacy for India unlike China. India can facilitate the appointment of the next Dalai Lama and extend protection for the existing and the next Dalai Lama. The repeal of the recognition for Chinese occupation of Tibet can also send major tremors in Beijing but that seems to be a distant dream. The new democratic Tibetan government under President Penpa Tsering should be given greater official acknowledgment and publicity. India has already taken small steps in this regard by acknowledging the involvement of the elite Special Frontier Force (SFF), majorly comprising of exiled Tibetans, in a game changing operation to shift the balance against China during the recent border crisis. The funeral of an SFF commando attended by a Member of Parliament and leader from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Ram Madhav was an overt signaling to China that Indians are not refraining from openly recognizing Tibetan contributions to the state of India. Another sensitive issue for China is the Xinjiang’s Uyghur Muslims being allegedly tortured and deprived of their basic human rights in the ‘re-education camps’ by the CPC and a state sponsored genocide being carried out against them. India can take up the issue vigorously at international forums with like-minded countries, increasing the pressure on China. Similarly, the pro-democracy voices in Hong Kong, pro-Mongol movements such as the protest against Mandarin imposition in the school curriculum of Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, can also be encouraged or given moral support. India, a country which upholds its virtue of unity in diversity must take a strong stand against the ‘cultural assimilation’ or ‘liberation’ as the Chinese say. This is nothing but cultural destruction imposed by China using the rhetoric of ‘not being civilised’ and branding the non-Han population as barbaric in China and the regions it illegally occupies.
India can also stir the hornet’s nest by engaging more formally with the Taiwanese leadership. Taipei has always been approached by New Delhi keeping in mind the sensitivities of China in mind. However, it does not have to do so for a power that bullies both the nations with constant threats and provocations by its action. It is a well-known fact that Taiwan is a center of excellence in terms of the semi-conductor industry and high-end technology. Engaging more with Taiwan will not only hurt Beijing, but also will help India counter the strategic advantage possessed by China in terms of being the major exporters of electronic goods and telecommunication hardware to India. India can also attain more self-sufficiency by boosting its own electronics industry using the Taiwanese semiconductor bases. India can use this leverage to shed its overdependence on China in critical sectors, balance the trade deficit to some extent, while also securing its networks from Chinese intelligence. India must also focus on working with the states having stake in the South China Sea such as Philippines and Malaysia who regularly face aggression in their airspace and Exclusive Economic Zones from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forces and China’s maritime militia, questioning their territorial sovereignty, imposing the One China Policy. New Delhi must pressurize China by working with the western nations, whose legislators have openly declared support for the Tibetan President in exile, to question China’s occupation of Tibet and attempts at homogenizing the population. Long term measures and strategies will have to be sought to end the dependence on China while seeking alternatives and becoming self-reliant over time.
However, India will face several serious challenges to implement the above-mentioned measures. There is a deep lack of mutual trust among major powers like USA, UK, France and Russia through whom India can build a coalition. The American President Joe Biden is seemingly interested in partly co-operating with China and has a softer stance unlike the former President Trump. Nevertheless, the QUAD is a welcome step in this regard and India must undertake a greater role in pressurizing China through such forums, albeit not openly. India also has a serious issue of possibly having to incur heavy economic losses on having to limit Chinese goods and investments and finding similarly cheap and easy alternatives. These fault lines are exactly what is being exploited by China to its advantage. Thus, the Indian state and its diplomacy has the heavy task of working between all these hurdles and taking China to task. However, since China seems remotely interested in settling the border disputes like it did with its post-Soviet neighbours in the previous decades and instead gauge pressure against India. So, New Delhi will have to pull up its sleeves to pay back China in the same coin.
The views expressed are solely of the author.
Who would bell the China cat?
If the G-7 and NATO china-bashing statements are any guide, the world is in for another long interregnum of the Cold War (since demise of the Soviet Union). The G-7 leaders called upon China to “respect human rights in its Xinjiang region” and “allow Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy” and “refrain from any unilateral action that could destabilize the East and South China Seas”, besides maintaining “peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits”.
China’s tit-for-tat response
The Chinese mission to the European Union called upon the NATO not to exaggerate the “China threat theory”
Amid the pandemic, still raging, the world is weary of resuscitating Cold War era entente. Even the G-7 members, Canada and the UK appear to be lukewarm in supporting the US wish to plunge the world into another Cold War. Even the American mothers themselves are in no mood to welcome more coffins in future wars. Importance of the G-7 has been whittled down by G-20.
Presumptions about the China’s cataclysmic rise are unfounded. Still, China is nowhere the US gross National Product. China’s military budget is still the second largest after the US. It is still less than a third of Washington’s budget to be increased by 6.8 per cent in 2021.
India claims to be a natural ally of the G-7 in terms of democratic “values”. But the US based Freedom House has rated India “partly free because of its dismal record in persecution of minorities. Weakened by electoral setbacks in West Bengal, the Modi government has given a free hand to religious extremists. For instance, two bigots, Suraj Pal Amu and Narsinghanand Saraswati have been making blasphemous statements against Islam at press conferences and public gatherings.
India’s main problem
Modi government’s mismanagement resulted in shortage of vaccine and retroviral drugs. The healthcare system collapsed under the mounting burden of fatalities.
Media and research institutions are skeptical of the accuracy of the death toll reported by Indian government.
The New York Times dated June 13, 2021 reported (Tracking Corona virus in India: Latest Map and case Count) “The official COVID-19 figures in India grossly under-estimate the true scale of the pandemic in the country”. The Frontline dated June 4, 2021 reported “What is clear in all these desperate attempts is the reality that the official numbers have utterly lost their credibility in the face of the biggest human disaster in independent India (V. Sridhar, India’s gigantic death toll due to COVID-19 is thrice the official numbers”, The frontline, June 4, 2021). It adds “More than 6.5 lakh Indians, not the 2.25 lakh reported officially are estimated to have died so far and at best a million more are expected to die by September 2021. The Seattle-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that actual Indian casualties may be 0.654 million (6.54 lakh), not the official count of 0.221 million (2.21 lakh as on May 6 when the report was released. That is a whopping three times the official numbers, an indicator of the extent of under-reporting”.
Epidemiologist Dr. Feigl-ding told India Today TV on April, 16, 2021 that “actual number of COVID-19 cases in India can be five or six times higher than the tally right now” (“Actual COVID-19 cases in India may be 5 to 10 times higher, says epidemiologist. India Today TV April 16, 2021).
India’s animosity against China is actuated by expediency. There is no chance of a full-blown war between China and India as the two countries have agreed not to use firepower in border skirmishes, if any. Modi himself told the All-party conference that not an inch of Indian territory has been ceded to China. In May this year, the Army Chief General M M. Naravane noted in an interview: “There has been no transgression of any kind and the process of talks is continuing.”
It is not China but the Quad that is disturbing unrest in China’s waters.
History tells the USA can sacrifice interests of its allies at the altar of self interest. India sank billions of dollars in developing the Chabahar Port. But, India had to abandon it as the US has imposed sanctions on Iran.
Xinjiang? A Minority Haven Or Hell
While the G7 meets under the shadow of Covid 19 and the leaders of the most prosperous nations on earth are focused on rebuilding their economies, a bloodless pogrom is being inflicted on a group of people on the other side of the world.
In this new era, killing people is wasteful and could bring the economic wrath of the rest of the world. No, it is better to brainwash them, to re-educate them, to destroy their culture, to force them to mold themselves into the alien beings who have invaded their land in the name of progress, and who take the best new jobs that sprout with economic development. Any protest at these injustices are treated severely.
Amnesty International has published a new 160-page report this week on Xinjiang detailing the horrors being perpetrated on Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Amnesty has simultaneously announced a campaign on their behalf.
Persecution, mass imprisonment in what can best be described as concentration camps, intensive interrogation and torture are actions that come under the definition of ‘crimes against humanity’. More than 50 people who spent time in these camps contributed first-hand accounts that form the substance of the report. It is not easy reading for these people have themselves suffered maltreatment even torture in many instances.
The UN has claimed that 1.5 million Muslims (Uighurs, Kazakhs, Uzbeks and Tajiks) are in these internment camps and China’s claims of re-education camps made to sound as benign as college campuses are patently false.
People report being interviewed in police stations and then transferred to the camps. Their interrogation was frequently conducted on ‘tiger chairs’: The interviewee is strapped to a metal chair with leg irons and hands cuffed in such a manner that the seating position soon becomes exceedingly painful. Some victims were hooded; some left that way for 24 hours or more, and thus were forced to relieve themselves, even defecate, where they sat. Beatings and sleep deprivation were also common.
Activities were closely monitored and they were mostly forbidden to speak to other internees including cell mates. Trivial errors such as responding to guards or other officials in their native language instead of Mandarin Chinese resulted in punishment.
Amnesty’s sources reported the routine was relentless. Wake up at 5am. Make bed — it had to be perfect. A flag-raising and oath-taking ceremony before breakfast at 7 am. Then to the classroom. Back to the canteen for lunch. More classes after. Then dinner. Then more classes before bed. At night two people had to be on duty for two hours monitoring the others leaving people exhausted. You never see sunlight while you are there, they said. That was because they were never taken outside as is done in most prisons.
The re-education requires them to disavow Islam, stop using their native language, give up cultural practices, and become Mandarin-speaking ‘Chinese’.
Such are the freedoms in Xi Jinping’s China. If China’s other leaders prior to Mr. Xi effected moderate policies in concert with advisers, it is no longer the case. Mr. Xi works with a small group of like minds. He has also removed the two-term or eight-year limit on being president. President for life as some leaders like to call themselves, then why not Mr. Xi. His anti-democratic values make him eminently qualified.
An enlightened leader might have used the colorful culture of these minorities to attract tourists and show them the diversity of China. Not Mr. Xi, who would rather have everyone march in lockstep to a colorless utopia reminiscent of the grey clothing and closed-collar jackets of the Maoist era.
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