The New Cold War: China vs Japan

Lately, it seems that Japanese officials can’t sneeze without incurring the wrath of the Chinese — and vice versa. So it’s no surprise that even conciliatory statements from Shinzo Abe have been soundly rebuffed. On Thursday, Abe wrote a message, published in local Chinese-language papers, conveying greetings for the lunar new year. According to Reuters’ translation of the Japanese-language version, Abe insisted that Japan has “taken the path of peace” since World War II, and “nothing has been changed in the policy of continuing to uphold this position.”

Friday, Abe further extended the olive branch. According to Channel NewsAsia, Abe told a parliamentary session that “Japan and China are inseparable.” He also expressed his desire for the two countries to restart diplomatic meetings. “Instead of refusing to hold dialogue unless issues become resolved, we should hold talks because we have issues,” Abe said.

China flatly rejected these overtures. Responding to earlier requests for a bilateral dialogue, Qin Gang responded with bitter sarcasm: “Such kind of dialogue will be of no effect. Chinese leaders are very busy. Let them spend more time on things useful and effective.”

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China eases one-child policy and abolishes ‘re-education labour camps’

State media says China’s top legislature has sanctioned the ruling Communist Party’s decision to allow couples to have a second child if one parent is an only child.  It is the first major easing in three decades of the restrictive national birth planning policy.  Implemented around 1980, China’s birth policy has limited most couples to only one child, but has allowed a second child if neither parent has siblings or if the first born to a rural couple is a girl.  The official Xinhua News Agency said the standing committee of the National People’s Congress approved a resolution Saturday to formalise the party decision.  It says the national lawmaking body has delegated the power to provincial people’s congresses and their standing committees to implement the new policy.

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Seoul: Kim Jong Un Fires Uncle, Executes His Associates

South Korea’s spy agency believes North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may have fired his uncle from a top military post and publicly executed some of his associates.  Lawmakers briefed by Seoul’s National Intelligence Agency said Tuesday that Jang Song Thaek was apparently removed as vice chairman of the powerful National Defense Commission.  The lawmakers say the agency believes two of Jang’s closest aides – Lee Yong-ha and Jang Soo-keel – were executed in mid-November and that he has not been seen since.   Aidan Foster-Carter, an honorary senior fellow at the University of Leeds in England and a long-time Korea watcher, says the demotion of Jang, while not confirmed, is very plausible.

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US to airlines: Obey China’s defense zone

The U.S. government is asking American airlines to follow China’s rules regarding its newly-declared air defense zone.  On Nov. 23, China declared airspace off the coast of China as the country’s “Air Defense Identification Zone.” The country asked that it be notified when flights are to pass through the airspace.  During a Wednesday press briefing, a State Department spokesperson said U.S. airlines are expected to comply with rules issued by foreign governments.  The U.S. “remain[s] deeply concerned by China’s November 23 declaration” of the airspace, the spokesperson said, but “generally expects that U.S. carriers operating internationally will operate consistent with NOTAMs (Notices to Airmen) issued by foreign countries.”  The fact that the U.S. government expects airlines to comply with the rules “does not indicate U.S. government acceptance of China’s requirements for operating in the newly declared ADIZ,” the spokesperson said.  Shortly after’s China’s declaration of the airspace as an “air defense identification zone,” the U.S. government flew two warplanes over the area without first notifying the Chinese government.  The New York Times compared the U.S. response to that of Japan, which asked its country’s airlines to stop following China’s notification requirements “out of fear that complying with the rules would add legitimacy to Chinese claims to islands that sit below the now contested airspace.”

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Russia and Japan Make a Play for the Pacific

GangofTwoOn November 2, Russia and Japan held their first-ever “two plus two” meeting, which brought together their respective foreign and defense ministers in Tokyo to discuss security cooperation. The meeting grabbed few headlines, but was far from routine: such gatherings are typically reserved for close allies, and for most of their modern history, Moscow and Tokyo have been anything but.  Now, however, the two countries find themselves linked by a shared predicament in the Asia-Pacific. Both are secondary players in a region overshadowed by an increasingly assertive China, which has not hesitated to push against the boundaries of its neighbors. New ties between Russia and Japan would mark not only a breakthrough in their relations but also a significant shift in Northeast Asia’s political dynamic. Since the 1950s, U.S. alliances with Japan and South Korea have dominated regional security. Russia and China thawed their frosty relationship in the 1990s and signed a friendship treaty in 2001, but China’s rise has increased tensions in every regional relationship.

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U.S. Sends Two B-52 Bombers Into Air Zone Claimed by China

WASHINGTON — Defying China, two long-range American bombers flew through contested airspace over the East China Sea, days after the Chinese announced they were claiming the right to police the sky above a vast area that includes islands at the center of a simmering dispute with Japan.  Pentagon officials said Tuesday that the B-52s were on a routine training mission planned long in advance of the Chinese announcement on Saturday that it was establishing an “air defense identification zone” over the area. But the message was clear.  A senior Pentagon official said that the mission overnight Monday from Guam “was a demonstration of long-established international rights to freedom of navigation and transit through international airspace.” The official said the unilateral Chinese declaration of expanded control “was provocative,” and “only increases the risk of miscalculation in the region.”

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China declares air defense zone over disputed islands

BEIJING, Nov. 23 (UPI) — China said Saturday it has marked out an “air defense identification zone” over part of the East China Sea that includes islands claimed by Japan and Taiwan.  Aircraft entering the area over the islands China calls Diaoyu would have to obey China’s rules, China’s Defense Ministry said, or face “emergency defensive measures,” the BBC reported.  Japan, which refers to the islands as Senkaku, called the Chinese action an “escalation” and lodged a strong protest. In a statement, the Japanese foreign ministry charged the unilateral move “has the danger of leading to an unexpected situation.”  Taiwan promised military action to protect its national security.  The zone claimed by China includes areas close to South Korea and Japan.

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Public Mass Executions Carried Out in Seven North Korean Cities

PYONGYANG, North Korea, Nov. 12 (UPI) — Dozens of people were executed recently in seven North Korean cities in the first known mass executions in the Kim Jong Un regime, South Korean media reported.  The executions of about 80 people occurred Nov. 3 for relatively minor infractions, such as watching South Korean movies or distributing pornographic material, Korea Joongang Daily reported Monday.  People were executed in cities such as Wonsan, Chongjin, Sariwon and Pyongsong. No one was executed in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital.  In Wonsan, eight people tied to stakes at a local stadium with their heads covered were shot with a machine gun, a source told Korea Joongang Daily. Witnesses said Wonsan authorities brought about 10,000 people, including children, to the stadium and forced them to watch.

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China builds sea power to shield oil, mineral supplies

MOMBASA, Kenya, Oct. 31 (UPI) — China disclosed this week that its nuclear submarines have started regular sea patrols, underlining Beijing’s plans to build a powerful naval force to protect the strategic Indian Ocean shipping lanes that carry the oil and raw materials from the Persian Gulf and Africa that fuel China’s expanding economy.  The official Xinhua news agency released photographs of what appeared to be Xia-class subs that will extend Chinese naval operations.  These are China’s first-generation of nuclear-armed submarines and are now decades old. Xinhua said they were being “declassified” for the first time, probably because they’re being replaced by more advanced Jin-class boats.  But the open display of the Xia-class subs, which Xinhua said “would gallop to the depths of the ocean, serving as mysterious forces igniting the sound of thunder in the deep sea,” reflects the growing assertiveness of China’s military forces, notably in the disputed oil-rich South China Sea.  At the same time, China’s been substantially extending its stake in Africa’s oil and gas fields and the continent’s other strategic minerals, and the Indian Ocean ports along the East African coastline.  The Indian Ocean has long been dominated by the U.S. Navy and its aircraft carrier battle groups, and the Americans are unlikely to relinquish control of that vast maritime region, so vital to Beijing’s strategic planning, anytime soon.

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Where Have All the Workers Gone?

It became fashionable after the Soviet Union’s collapse to say that breakneck economic growth was the only thing postponing the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) day of reckoning. Communist ideology was discredited, went the argument, but as long as the economic pie kept growing, citizens would set aside broader concerns and take their piece. But what if growth were interrupted by, say, a global financial crisis, collapse of world trade, and mass layoffs on the Chinese factory floor? The music would stop, the masquerade party would end, and Jennifer Connelly would smash her way through David Bowie’s bubble prison, so to speak. Except that it didn’t. The Chinese economy faced exactly this cataclysmic scenario in the final months of 2008.

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Miss World 2013: The Philippines Wins Amid Muslim Protests in Indonesia

Miss world 2013The event was originally scheduled to take place in Bali before moving to Jakarta. However, this plan was derailed by protests staged by hardline Muslims. The entire contest was held in Bali instead, following protesters who decried the pageant as a “whore contest” and “pornography.” Alongside forcing the cancellation of the Jakarta portion of the event, the protests also pressured event organizers to scrap the bikini contest in favor of a more straight-laced “beach fashion” segment that included the donning of Indonesia’s native beach garment, the sarong. The venue where the competition was staged was guarded by heavily armed police and water cannons. Similar protests forced pop icon Lady Gaga to cancel the Indonesian leg of her 2012 tour.

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56 dead as Philippine troops start to fight their way into rebel-held villages

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines — Philippine troops have started to battle their way into coastal villages in the south where Muslim rebels have held scores of residents hostage in a six-day standoff, sparking fierce clashes that have killed 56 people and displaced more than 60,000, officials said Saturday.  Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said government forces surrounding about 200 fighters from a Moro National Liberation Front rebel faction have started to advance and slowly retake rebel-held areas and clear roads in villages in the coastal outskirts of Zamboanga, a major port city.

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China and Japan REALLY Don’t Like Each Other

Having friends in both China and Japan, I have often been asked to explain both sides’ actions since the Diaoyu/Senkakus crisis began in September 2012. For example, my Chinese friends cannot understand why the Abe government is so “stubborn” and isn’t willingly trying to repair relations with China, while my Japanese friends wonder the same thing about the Chinese government.  A recent survey of Chinese and Japanese citizens views of each other’s countries helps shed light on these issues.  The results of the survey could provide answers to the questions of my friends.  This survey, which was commissioned by the Japanese think tank Genron NPO and China Daily, asked 1,805 Japanese citizens and 1,540 Chinese citizens about their views of the other country.

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Japan Gets to Know a Quadrillion as Debt Hits New High

The late Senator Everett Dirksen (R-Ill.) is famous for allegedly saying, “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”  It might be apocryphal—the Dirksen Congressional Center has found no evidence that the late Illinois Republican ever made the quip—but it certainly resonates as the political parties spar over sequestration and Americans become even more accustomed to thinking somewhat casually about what should be unfathomably big numbers.  In Japan, however, billions are for amateurs. With public debt more than 200 percent of GDP, the Japanese have long measured their red ink in hundreds of trillions of yen, at least until now. The Japanese crossed into uncharted fiscal territory Friday following news that the country’s gigantic national debt has for the first time just exceeded ¥1,000 trillion—in other words, more than one quadrillion.

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China may not overtake America this century after all

The world’s tallest tower should have been built by now. Officials said last year that the great edifice with 220 floors would be erected in three months flat in China’s inland city of Changsha by March, snatching the crown from Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.  The deadline has come and gone, yet the wasteland sits untouched. It now looks as if the fin d’époque project – using prefab blocs – may never be approved. Even China knows its limits.  Prime minister Li Keqiang has asked the State Council to clamp down on the excesses of the regions. Not before time.  A top regulator says local government finances are “out of control”.  Vested interests are conspiring to stop him, launching a counter-attack from their power-base in the $6 trillion state industries. Even so, uber-growth is surely over.

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U.S. and China Trade Barbs On East China Sea

On Monday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Japanese Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera met in Washington D.C.

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On Monday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Japanese Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera met in Washington D.C.

Their discussions touched on what they described as a  ”full range of issues facing the U.S.-Japan alliance.” This included hot topics such as “North Korea’s destabilizing behavior, threats to maritime security, and our shared efforts to enhance our defense posture and capabilities to respond to the 21st century challenges.”

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China Deploys Carrier Killer Missile Near Taiwan

Asian Security: As Korea festers, our friends in Beijing have deployed near Taiwan a powerful missile designed to take out U.S. aircraft carriers as Beijing strengthens its ability to prevent U.S. forces from aiding Taiwan.  When North Korea announced the 1953 Armistice was considered null and void and threatened renewed missile tests, the U.S. rushed naval assets to the region, including two destroyers equipped with the Aegis anti-missile defense system. We presumably would do so if things heated up between Beijing and its claimed “lost province,” Taiwan.

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China Suggests U.S. Is Stirring Tensions in Asia-Pacific Region

HAIKOU, China — China published a national defense paper on Tuesday suggesting that the United States was creating tensions in the Asia-Pacific region by strengthening its military presence and reinforcing its alliances there. The paper, released by the Ministry of Defense, did not declare that the United States was responsible, but the message was clear.  Strongly alluding to the Obama administration’s policy to “pivot” toward a greater focus on the Asia-Pacific region, the paper said, “Some country has strengthened its Asia-Pacific military alliances, expanded its military presence in the region, and frequently makes the situation tenser.” Thus, China has an “arduous task to safeguard its national unification, territorial integrity and development interests.”

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China’s new stealth wars

As China’s economic power has grown, so has its desire to alter the status quo in disputes with its neighbours.  In the way China made land grabs across the Himalayas in the 1950s by launching furtive encroachments, it is now waging separate stealth wars—without firing a single shot—to change the status quo in the South and East China Seas, on the line of control with India, and on international river flows. Although China has risen from a backward, poor state to a global economic powerhouse, the key elements in its statecraft and strategic doctrine have not changed.

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U.S. amassing B-1 strategic bombers near North Korea

It seems like Washington has taken Kim Jong Un threat seriously.  After moving two Langley’s F-22 Raptor stealth fighters to Osan airbase, in South Korea, launching a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber on a round-trip training mission over a South Korean’s gunnery range from the Continental U.S., and deploying THAAD anti-ballistic missile defense system to Guam, positioning two guided-missile destroyers in the waters near the Korean peninsula, the Pentagon has decided to strengthen its presence in the region by deploying several B-1 Lancer long range bombers to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.  But, for the first time in the last few weeks, the deployment of the “Bones” to the Pacific atoll was not made public (at least, not yet), a fact that could be the sign that the U.S. is not only making symbolic moves (as the above mentioned ones), but it is preparing for the worst scenario: an attack on North Korea.

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