Boris Johnson South China Sea carrier deployment to project Britain power

Britain strives to project power with carrier deployment to South China Sea

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The HMS Queen Elizabeth left Portsmouth Naval Base on Saturday for exercises off Scotland before a 28-week trip through the Pacific that will take the Royal Navy to more than 40 countries. (Associated Press) more >

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By Ben Wolfgang

The Washington Times

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Post-Brexit Britain is thrusting itself into 21st-century great power competition with the deployment of a massive carrier strike group through Asia and the bitterly contested South China Sea this month, marking the Royal Navy’s most ambitious mission since the Falklands War of the early 1980s.

It’s the clearest example to date of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to reinvent and reenergize British foreign policy as the nation emerges from its divorce from the European Union with grand ambitions of once again becoming a major player on the world stage. Having largely played a supporting role to the U.S. in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere during the post-9/11 counterterrorism era, regional analysts say, London is turning its attention to the east as China continues its rapid ascent as a global military and economic powerhouse.

Like the U.S., Australia and other allies around the world, the United Kingdom has a vested interest in ensuring that the critical waterway of East Asia does not fall under full Chinese control. The naval mission through the South China Sea, the same type of “freedom of navigation” expedition that the U.S. has become known for in the region, is a clear sign of Britain’s willingness to reassert itself.

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But the mission has even deeper significance. It’s Britain’s first major military excursion since formally exiting the EU. Although a deployment of the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth and its accompanying flotilla had long been in the works, analysts say, the timing of the voyage is no accident.

“This all needs to be viewed in a post-Brexit lens,” said Leah Scheunemann, deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Transatlantic Security Initiative.

“They’re trying to re-find their footing vis-a-vis the United States, and vis-a-vis Europe,” said Ms. Scheunemann, who previously served as country director for the United Kingdom and Ireland at the Pentagon. “Because of historic ties to the Indo-Pacific and historically the strength of their naval assets, specifically, there definitely is the view that this is a little bit of going back to the past, regaining that glory” of the heyday of the British Empire.

The British Navy’s 28-week trip through the Pacific will cover 26,000 nautical miles with visits to more than 40 countries, officials said. Led by the Queen Elizabeth, a fleet of submarines, destroyers, anti-submarine frigates and other vessels also will set sail. A U.S. Navy destroyer and a frigate from the Netherlands will accompany the British strike group.

“When our carrier strike group sets sail … it will be flying the flag for ‘global Britain,’ projecting our influence, signaling our power, engaging with our friends and reaffirming our commitment to addressing the security challenges of today and tomorrow,” U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said last week. “The entire nation can be proud of the dedicated men and women who for more than six months will demonstrate to the world that the U.K. is not stepping back but sailing forth to play an active role in shaping the international system of the 21st century.”

‘Renewed commitment’

Mr. Johnson, who owes his office and strong parliamentary majority largely to the politics of Brexit, in March laid out his “Global Britain” plan as the nation’s post-Brexit road map. Now disentangled from the EU and able to make foreign policy decisions entirely on its own, Britain will center its future on a “robust position on security and resilience” and a “renewed commitment to the U.K. as a force for good in the world,” the proposal reads in part.

Brexit skeptics argued that Britain’s clout going it alone will pale beside the combined heft of EU membership, but Mr. Johnson appears determined to prove them wrong.

As a key member of NATO, the U.K. will remain a major player in the U.S.-European effort to blunt Russian aggression on the continent. While all British forces are withdrawing from Afghanistan as part of the joint U.S.-NATO pullout, the U.K. still is expected to be involved in counterterrorism efforts, particularly if more hot spots emerge in Africa and the Middle East.

Britain, which this week is playing host to foreign ministers of the Group of Seven leading industrial nations and will welcome Mr. Biden and fellow G-7 leaders to Cornwall next month, also is deeply involved in the push to renegotiate an international deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program.

The most pressing challenges of the next several decades, however, all revolve around China.

The U.K. plan to push back militarily and economically on Chinese expansion has met with an especially chilly reaction in Beijing. Across the region, the effort also is likely to stir memories of Britain’s long, complex history in the theater, from its colonization of Hong Kong to the 19th-century opium wars with China.

Chinese officials have made no secret that they disapprove of the Royal Navy’s move through the Pacific.

China hopes that countries outside the region will respect the aspiration of countries in the region to maintain peace and stability and promote cooperation for development, and refrain from taking actions that could complicate the situation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters last week when asked about the mission.

As its military encroaches further into the South China Sea and invests heavily in new warships, fighter planes and cutting-edge weapons, Beijing also is using its vastly ambitious Belt and Road economic initiative to pour hundreds of billions of dollars into infrastructure projects in developing economies around the world. That effort has helped China cultivate new alliances in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere while ensuring that dozens of countries are now in debt — financially and politically — to the Chinese Communist Party.

Nations such as Pakistan that were once under British control now have a burgeoning partnership with China.

Meanwhile, Chinese companies such as Huawei are playing a leading role in key 21st-century technological infrastructure such as 5G networks. The U.S. and U.K. have taken steps to ban Huawei products in their nations’ networks largely out of suspicion that Chinese equipment contains secret “back doors” that could be used to eavesdrop and gather intelligence.

In Washington, Britain’s involvement in Pacific freedom of navigation operations and a broader pushback against China is welcome news for the Biden administration, which is eager to enlist allies in the fight. In a speech to Congress last week, President Biden said he recently told Chinese President Xi Jinping that the U.S. and its allies will not cede the region to Beijing. He also said the U.S. and its partners oppose Chinese human rights abuses such as the treatment of minority Uyghurs in Xinjiang province.

“I also told President Xi that we’ll maintain a strong military presence in the Indo-Pacific, just as we do with NATO in Europe: not to start a conflict, but to prevent one,” Mr. Biden said. “I told him what I’ve said to many world leaders: that America will not back away from our commitments — our commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms and to our alliances.”

Philippine diplomat apologizes for profanity toward China

Philippine diplomat apologizes for profanity toward China

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FILE – In this Feb. 6, 2020, file photo, Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr. gestures during a senate hearing in Manila, Philippines. Locsin apologized Tuesday, May 4,2021, after tweeting an obscene phrase demanding China get out of … more >

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By JIM GOMEZ

Associated Press

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

MANILA, Philippines (AP) – The Philippines‘ foreign secretary apologized Tuesday after tweeting an obscene phrase demanding China get out of Philippine-claimed territory in the South China Sea in an outburst that annoyed the Philippine president.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. blasted China with the profanity on Monday, when the Department of Foreign Affairs announced it had protested the Chinese coast guard’s “shadowing, blocking, dangerous maneuver and radio challenges” of Philippine coast guard ships patrolling and carrying out exercises from April 24 to 25 at disputed Scarborough Shoal.

Locsin also compared China to “an ugly oaf” which was “forcing your attentions on a handsome guy who wants to be a friend.”

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Locsin said he was apologizing only to his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, to ensure their friendship would continue. “I won’t plead the last provocation as an excuse for losing it; but if Wang Yi is following Twitter, then I’m sorry for hurting his feelings, but his alone,” Locsin tweeted.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who has nurtured friendly ties with China and its leaders since taking office in 2016, expressed his irritation in televised remarks Monday night.

“Just because we have a conflict with China does not mean to say that we have to be rude and disrespectful,” Duterte said. “We have many things to thank China for the help in the past and its assistance now.”

China has donated and sold COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines, which has struggled to secure enough doses to immunize up to 70 million Filipinos amid tight global supplies. Unlike Western governments, China also has not criticized Duterte’s bloody anti-illegal drug crackdown, which has left thousands of mostly petty suspects dead and alarmed human rights groups.

The Philippines has issued dozens of diplomatic protests to China over the territorial dispute. Locsin and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana have also issued increasingly acerbic remarks against Chinese actions in the disputed waters, despite Duterte’s friendly overtures to Beijing.

The escalating feud between Manila and Beijing started after more than 200 Chinese vessels suspected by Philippine authorities to be operated by militias were spotted in early March at Whitsun Reef. Lorenzana and Locsin demanded the vessels leave, then the government deployed navy and coast guard vessels to the area. China said it owns the reef and the Chinese vessels were sheltering from rough seas.

Many of the Chinese vessels have left Whitsun, about 175 nautical miles (325 kilometers) west of the Philippine province of Palawan, but several have remained moored in the area, part of a shallow atoll partly occupied by China and Vietnam. The Philippine government says the reef is within an internationally recognized offshore zone where Manila has exclusive rights to exploit fisheries, oil, gas and other resources.

While being careful with his pronouncements on China, Duterte blasted two respected former Philippine officials who have criticized his handling of the country’s territorial conflicts with Beijing. He used expletives and called former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio “idiotic.”

Del Rosario and Carpio were among the Philippine officials who brought the country’s conflict with China to international arbitration in 2013. The arbitration tribunal ruled largely in favor of the Philippines based on the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea and invalidated China’s claims to virtually the entire South China Sea on historical grounds. China refused to participate in the arbitration, ignored the 2016 ruling and continues to defy it.

Philippines protests `blocking’ of its patrol ships by China

Philippines protests `blocking’ of its patrol ships by China

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By JIM GOMEZ

Associated Press

Monday, May 3, 2021

MANILA, Philippines (AP) – The Philippine government has protested the Chinese coast guard’s harassment of Philippine coast guard ships patrolling a disputed shoal in the South China Sea, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Monday.

It was the latest of dozens of recent protests by Manila’s foreign affairs department, along with increasingly acerbic remarks by the country’s top diplomat and defense chief about Chinese actions in the disputed waters. The high-profile feud has escalated despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s friendly stance toward China.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. used an obscene phrase in a tweet demanding China get out of Philippine-claimed areas. “What are you doing to our friendship?” Locsin asked. “You’re like an ugly oaf forcing your attentions on a handsome guy who wants to be a friend,.”

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Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana rejected China’s demand that the Philippines end its patrols in the disputed region. “While we acknowledge that China’s military capability is more advanced than ours, this does not prevent us from defending our national interests and our dignity as a people with all that we have,” Lorenzana said in a video message late Sunday,

In the latest incident, the Department of Foreign Affairs said it “has protested the shadowing, blocking, dangerous maneuver and radio challenges by the Chinese coast guard of Philippine coast guard vessels conducting legitimate maritime patrols and training exercises” from April 24 to 25 near Scarborough Shoal off the northwestern Philippines.

Both countries claim the rich fishing area, which China effectively seized in 2012 by surrounding it with its coast guard and surveillance ships after a tense standoff with Philippine vessels.

The department said it also protested “the incessant, illegal, prolonged and increasing presence of Chinese fishing vessels and maritime militia vessels in Philippine maritime zones” in the disputed waters. It said hundreds of Chinese vessels have been spotted by Philippine law enforcement agencies from January to March this year in areas around Scarborough Shoal and Philippine-occupied Thitu Island, which Filipinos call Pagasa.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has asked the Philippines to respect what it calls Chinese sovereignty in the disputed waters and “stop actions complicating the situation and escalating disputes.” China claims virtually all of the South China Sea. On Sunday, its People’s Liberation Army said a Chinese aircraft carrier group recently conducted annual exercises in the busy sea lanes.

The escalating feud between Manila and Beijing started after more than 200 Chinese vessels suspected by Philippine authorities to be operated by militias were spotted in early March at Whitsun Reef. The Philippine government demanded the vessels leave, then deployed coast guard vessels to the area. China said it owns the reef and the Chinese vessels were sheltering from rough seas.

Many of the Chinese vessels have left Whitsun, about 175 nautical miles (325 kilometers) west of the Philippine province of Palawan, but several have remained moored in the area, part of a shallow atoll partly occupied by China and Vietnam. The Philippine government says the reef is within an internationally recognized offshore zone where Manila has exclusive rights to exploit fisheries, oil, gas and other resources.

The United States has said it will stand by the Philippines amid the territorial disputes.

China nuclear buildup faster than expected, U.S. now believes

China nuclear buildup faster than expected, U.S. now believes

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In this Oct. 1, 2019, file photo spectators wave Chinese flags as military vehicles carrying DF-41 ballistic missiles roll during a parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China in Beijing. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein) **FILE** more >

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By Bill Gertz

The Washington Times

Thursday, April 29, 2021

China’s military is advancing its nuclear arsenal and delivery systems so fast the Defense Intelligence Agency has had to move up its estimate of when Beijing will double its warhead stockpile, the general in charge of military intelligence told Congress on Thursday.

In wide-ranging testimony, DIA Director Army Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on global threats that China and Russia are actively using information warfare surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic to undermine Western governments.

The three-star general said the DIA last year estimated the People’s Liberation Army would double its stockpile of nuclear warheads, which the agency has said was in the “low 200s,” by the year 2030.

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“Since then, Beijing has accelerated its nuclear expansion and is on track to exceed our previous projection,” he said. “PLA nuclear forces are expected to continue to grow with their nuclear stockpile likely to at least double in size over this decade and increase the threat to the U.S. homeland.” No new estimate of the number of warheads was made public.

Gen. Berrier said the nuclear buildup is part of a “massive military modernization” by Beijing and is being “accelerated as a deterrent,” he added.

China’s nuclear forces include an array of ground-based mobile missiles, nuclear missile submarines and bombers that provide the Chinese government with a large nuclear force.

On the coronavirus, Gen. Berrier said its origin in China is unclear but DIA analysts believe the initial outbreak began either from infected animals or a laboratory accident. The pandemic will continue until up to 80% of the global population will either be infected or vaccinated, he predicted, and “several countries that had successfully slowed transmission are now reporting resurgences.”

So far, 263 COVID-19 vaccines are in development worldwide, and Gen. Berrier said both China and Russia are engaged information warfare programs during the pandemic “to undermine Western governments, attack coalitions and compel economic and political outcomes in their favor.”

China has attempted to divert international attention from its handling of early days of the pandemic outbreak in 2019 and 2020 by claiming the virus may have originated outside the country, including possibly at a U.S. Army laboratory. 

Russia has sought to undermine public confidence in the effectiveness of U.S. vaccines through disinformation campaigns. 

On the nuclear front, China is diversifying its arsenal with various weapons and systems in addition to increasing numbers, Gen. Berrier stated. The buildup grew out of military exercises that helped commanders understand which options-provide the most viable nuclear capabilities in the shortest amount of time.

The production speed up was mandated under a Chinese Communist Party communique issued in October 2020, which outlined plans for creating what the general described as “high-level strategic deterrence.”

Gen. Berrier said DIA analysts assess that  China is working to narrow the gap in the U.S. qualitative edge in nuclear forces, or to either match or exceed U.S. capabilities. 

China is also about to complete deployment for the first time of a nuclear triad with a new strategic bomber that will fire air-launched ballistic missiles, he said.

For submarines, Beijing has fielded six second-generation ballistic missile submarines that will be capable of doing continuous at-sea deterrent patrols with missiles that can strike the United States from areas of the South China Sea. 

Gen. Berrier said the new DF-17 hypersonic cruise missile also could be outfitted with a nuclear warhead.

“That poses a significant risk,” he said. “The speed at which those weapons travel makes it very, very difficult to track in their entire trajectory.”

Mark B. Schneider, a nuclear expert with the National Institute for Public Policy and former Pentagon official, said the low 200s warhead estimate is almost certainly too low, considering China’s missile expansion in recent years. 

He estimates that the combined nuclear and non-strategic warhead stockpile in China could be as high as 3,000.

China has traditionally been extremely secretive about its nuclear forces,” he said in a recent article in Real Clear Defense.Mr. Schneider said recent Strategic Command testimony indicates the warhead expansion is the result of deployments of China’s  DF-41 missiles, which  can carry up to 10 warheads each.

“A major reassessment of China’s nuclear capabilities is long overdue. If China has about 1,000 nuclear warheads in 2030, this would represent a very serious threat. If it already has about 1,000 nuclear warheads today and is increasing that number, this would be even more alarming,” Mr. Schneider said.

Beijing also has placed some of its nuclear forces on a higher alert status that Gen. Berrier described as “launch-on-warning.”

In the past, Chinese warheads had been stored separately from missiles.

The DIA testimony echoed the concerns raised last week in House testimony by Adm. Charles Richard, commander of the Strategic Command, who also warned about what he termed a “breathtaking” Chinese nuclear expansion.

“We are seeing this very rapid expansion of Chinese capabilities,” Adm. Richard said.

The worrying systems include increased numbers of road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles, along with many new solid-fueled missiles in silos.

“A solid-fuel rocket is very responsive, and that, coupled with their new nuclear command and control, gives them a launch under warning or launch under attack capability that right now only the U.S. and the Russians possess,” he said.

Adm. Richard said the expansion is so rapid that he informed briefers at Strategic Command that any information on the Chinese nuclear forces that is more than a month old needs to be reassessed.

 

China says U.S. increasing military activity directed at it

China says U.S. increasing military activity directed at it

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In this April 23, 2019, file photo, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy aircraft carrier Liaoning participates in a naval parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of China’s PLA Navy in the sea near Qingdao in … more >

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By

Associated Press

Thursday, April 29, 2021

BEIJING (AP) — Activity by U.S. military ships and surveillance planes directed at China has increased significantly under President Joe Biden’s administration, a spokesperson for the Chinese Defense Ministry said Thursday.

As an example, Wu Qian said the Navy destroyer USS Mustin recently conducted close-in observation of the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning and its battle group.

That had “seriously interfered with the Chinese side’s training activities and seriously threatened the safety of navigation and personnel on the both sides,” Wu said. The ship was warned to leave and a formal protest was filed with the U.S., he said.

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Activity by U.S. military ships was up 20% and by planes 40% in Chinese-claimed areas since Biden took office in January over the same period last year, Wu said.

“The U.S. frequently dispatches ships and planes to operate in seas and airspace near China, promoting regional militarization and threatening regional peace and stability,” Wu said at a monthly briefing held virtually.

China routinely objects to the U.S. military presence in the South China Sea, which it claims almost in its entirety, as well as the passage of Navy ships through the Taiwan Strait.

The country recently marked the 20th anniversary of the collision between a U.S. surveillance plane and a Chinese navy fighter near the Chinese island province of Hainan that resulted in the Chinese pilot’s death. He was called a hero who sacrificed himself for the defense of the motherland. The U.S. says its plane was in international airspace and the accident was the result of reckless flying by the Chinese side.

Wu also blasted moves to beef up monitoring of Chinese aircraft movements by Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy claimed by China as its own territory, to be annexed by force if necessary.

Efforts by Taiwan’s government to stave off what China refers to as inevitable unification are like “a mantis trying to stop a chariot,” Wu said.

The U.S. maintains only unofficial relations with Taiwan in deference to Beijing, but provides the island with defensive weapons and is legally bound to treat threats to it as matters of “grave concern.” Increased activity by the Chinese military around Taiwan has been raising concern about the possibility of a conflict.

In an interview with Britain’s Sky News, Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu reiterated recent warnings that the military threat from China is growing through “misinformation campaigns, hybrid warfare, and … grey zone activities.”

“And all these seem to be preparing for their final military assault against Taiwan,” Wu told Sky.

“This is our country, this is our people and this is our way of life. We will defend ourselves to the very end,” Wu said.

Biden did not address such military threats in his address to Congress on Wednesday night, instead emphasizing that China and others were “closing in fast” in economic and technological terms.

“We’re in a competition with China and other countries to win the 21st century,” Biden said.

That drew a harsh response from China‘s Foreign Ministry, reflecting how hopes for an improvement in the tone, if not the substance, of relations under Biden have born little fruit.

“The U.S. always demands that others follow the rules while violating the rules themselves,” spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a daily briefing.

“It is in nature out of Cold War thinking and ideological bias, and is a sign of lack of self-confidence,” Wang said. “We hope the U.S. can discard the mentality of sour grapes towards China.”

Nuclear deterrence for China needs upgrade

Nuclear deterrence for China needs upgrade

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The Pentagon is focusing too much on surprise nuclear attacks and not enough on scenarios with Russia or China, according to Senate testimony. (Associated Press/File) more >

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By Bill Gertz

The Washington Times

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

The American strategy for deterring nuclear war is outdated and needs to be revised to address more likely scenarios, such as nuclear conflict growing out of a conventional war with China or Russia, according to Paul Bracken, a political science professor at Yale University.

Mr. Bracken told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday that too much attention is focused by military and defense officials on the most unlikely nuclear war scenarios. Some 90% of strategic military efforts today seek to deter surprise nuclear attacks from China or Russia, with 10% focused on an accidental war, he said.

“I believe that we have, relatively speaking, too much deterrence against the surprise attack,” Mr. Bracken said. “So I do not mind reducing deterrence of this in favor of increasing attention to other contexts and scenarios. That the United States could be fighting on the doorstep of nuclear weapon states — areas bristling with much larger numbers of weapons than today — is the real deterrence challenge.”

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The dangers of nuclear conflict have increased as the Cold War standoff between Washington and Moscow is now complicated by China‘s large-scale nuclear buildup, Russia’s new, exotic strategic arms and the expansion of other nuclear arsenals.

“We now are in a multipolar nuclear world,” Mr. Bracken said. “It isn’t just Russia with the bomb anymore. China is doubling its nuclear forces, according to the director of national intelligence. Pakistan could have 300 weapons in 10 years. If China and Pakistan expand, it is hard to believe that India will not respond accordingly.”

Russia, for its part, is building a high-speed underwater drone with a 100-megaton warhead that will be the largest nuclear bomb ever deployed, capable of creating tsunamis that can destroy cities and ports. Moscow and Beijing are building large forces of short- and medium-range nuclear missiles, upping the ante that a future conventional conflict will go nuclear.

North Korea is expected to have 150 nuclear weapons in 10 years, along with long-range missiles capable of ranging U.S. targets, and shorter-range systems targeting Japan and South Korea.

Mr. Bracken sees China‘s nuclear might as among the most worrying sources for inducing a future strategic war as China builds a triad of nuclear missiles, missile submarines and bombers. Academic studies of China‘s nuclear strategy misunderstood Beijing‘s relatively small nuclear warhead stockpile and its declared “no first use” policy.

“This narrow framing of the problem needs serious reconsideration,” Mr. Bracken said.

Mr. Bracken said it is not clear whether China has developed the doctrine and policies needed for the use of nuclear arms and whether they would be used if conflict breaks out over Taiwan or on the Korean Peninsula.

“Reading Chinese nuclear doctrine as I have convinces me that they haven’t thought this through,” he said. “China‘s declared nuclear doctrine doesn’t cover a wide range of possibilities beyond what it was narrowly written for.”

Beijing‘s vastly expanded nuclear power, he said, provides the Chinese Communist Party with new opportunities for political coercion and blackmail.

“It may be intended to deter U.S. conventional intervention by posing nuclear risks to offset new U.S. technologies like cyber and super-precision strike,” Mr. Bracken said.

Key to Beijing‘s strategic calculus is the 1958 Taiwan crisis, when Chinese communist and nationalist forces squared off at the islands of Quemoy and Matsu on the east coast of China across from Taiwan. The skirmish was China‘s Cuban missile crisis because the U.S. at the time had nuclear weapons on Taiwan.

Declassified documents from the crisis reveal that the U.S. Air Force was prepared to use nuclear weapons to counter a Chinese assault on the islands. President Eisenhower, however, rejected the use of nuclear arms, even if Beijing invaded the outer islands. The lack of backing from Moscow and the inability to deter a U.S. nuclear attack launched Beijing on its drive for a nuclear arsenal.

NAVAL EXPERT WARNS OF CHINA‘S ‘DECADE OF DANGER’

The next 10 years will be a period of intensifying conflict between the United States and China below the level of a kinetic war, according to Andrew S. Erickson, professor of strategy at the Naval War College. Beijing is engaged in extensive “gray zone” operations in the seas around China that have increased tensions.

“Fortunately, the United States and its allies and partners can likely avoid great power war with China,” Mr. Erickson told the newsletter The Wire China. “Instead, the situation we’re likely to face over the next few years — in what might be called a ‘decade of danger’ — are periods of friction, tension, and even crisis.”

Peacetime gray zone conflicts are reflected in China‘s drive to advance disputed maritime claims in the South China Sea and East China Sea, as well as undermining regional states’ rights and interests. Gray zone military and quasi-military operations are designed to avoid triggering a direct military conflict.

The operations take the form of incidents in international waters and in some cases are defused with little impact.

“At other times, China acquires control of additional physical territory or maritime zones in the process,” Mr. Erickson said.

The seizure of Scarborough Shoal in the Spratly Islands in 2012 is a key example. China used its coast guard and maritime militia forces to prevent the Philippine government from enforcing environmental regulations inside Manila’s exclusive economic zone.

The Obama administration failed to take any action against the Chinese for the Scarborough seizure, setting off a massive Chinese island-building campaign and maritime territory seizure campaign based on the Scarborough Shoal model.

Chinese harassment of U.S. Navy vessels has also highlighted the gray zone war.

The most serious incident was the 2009 harassment of the USNS Impeccable surveillance ship in the South China Sea that was confronted by five Chinese ships and forced to leave the area.

“Again, unfortunately, the U.S. apparently never imposed a cost for this unlawful, unacceptable PRC behavior,” Mr. Erickson said. “Nor did the U.S. government even publicly state that China‘s maritime militia had been involved.”

The Chinese maritime activities are part of a concerted effort by Beijing to control the region near its coasts by “winning without fighting.”

“It’s a gradual process. But over the course of years, combined with the fortification of the PRC’s South China Sea outposts, something very significant is happening over time,” Mr. Erickson said.

State Department spokesman Ned Price did not answer directly when asked this week whether the United States’ 40-year policy of engaging China in the hope of prompting liberalization of the communist regime had failed. The Trump administration undertook a major shift in U.S. policy by adopting a hard line on Beijing, and several of the Trump policies have been adopted for now by the Biden administration.

“We have always said is that it is a relationship that is multifaceted,” Mr. Price told reporters. “It is a relationship that will have competitive elements. It is a relationship that will have adversarial elements. And it is a relationship that will have some cooperative elements.”

Overall, the U.S.-Chinese relationship is “predicated on competition,” he said.

“Our goal in not only engaging with Beijing, but also with our partners and allies and also here at home, harnessing our domestic sources of strength, is to be able to compete and ultimately to outcompete with China,” Mr. Price said. “This is an approach that, while it has human rights at the center, it is not an approach that requires any rose-colored glasses about the nature of the PRC, the nature of its leadership.”

Pressed on whether conciliatory policies toward China were misguided, Mr. Price declined to say.

“I’m not going to speak to previous administrations. I’m going to speak to this administration’s approach, and that’s precisely our approach. It is a clear-eyed, principled approach to the PRC that recognizes competition at the center of that relationship.”

Mr. Price said the administration still hopes to cooperate with Beijing on some issues, including climate change, arms nonproliferation and Iran.

Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter at @BillGertz.

EU joins U.S. in criticizing China provocations to the Philippines

‘Endanger peace and stability’: EU joins U.S. in criticizing China’s provocations

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Chinese vessels are moored at Whitsun Reef, South China Sea. The Philippine government has summoned the Chinese ambassador to press a demand for Chinese vessels to immediately leave the reef claimed by Manila in the disputed South China Sea and … more >

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By Guy Taylor

The Washington Times

Updated: 4:30 p.m. on
Sunday, April 25, 2021

The European Union joined the U.S. in criticizing China’s ongoing maritime provocations toward the Philippines in the South China Sea over the weekend, with Brussels accusing Beijing of making waves that “endanger peace and stability in the region.”

“The EU reiterates its strong opposition to any unilateral actions that could undermine regional stability and the international rules-based order,” the bloc said in reference to a biting standoff near the waterway’s vital global shipping routes.

Roughly 200 Chinese vessels have been massed for weeks near an area of the South China Sea known as Whitsun Reef, which is situated within the exclusive economic zone claimed by the Philippines.

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With the Chinese ships accused of blocking the Philippines from accessing the reef, Manilla has responded by flying warplanes over the area, triggering fears in Washington of a potential escalation.

Biden administration officials have said they stand by America’s alliance with the Philippines and would regard any attack on any Philippines territory as covered under the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised the treaty in an early April phone call with Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin. During the call, the two “shared concerns with the massing of [People’s Republic of China] maritime militia vessels in the South China Sea, including at Whitsun Reef,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement at the time.

Mr. Price said they also “reiterated their calls on the PRC to abide by the 2016 arbitration ruling issued pursuant to the Law of the Sea Convention,” a reference to a ruling by the United Nations-backed body known by the acronym “UNCLOS,” which disputed Chinese sovereignty claims over most of the South China Sea back in 2016.

During his early April call with Mr. Locsin, Mr. Blinken specifically “reaffirmed the applicability of the 1951 U.S.-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty to the South China Sea,” Mr. Price said.

With that as a backdrop, Reuters has reported that the Philippines on Friday protested to China over its failure to withdraw its “threatening” boats believed to be manned by maritime militia around the disputed Whitsun Reef, which Manila calls the Julian Felipe Reef.

The EU issued its statement Saturday, saying “tensions in the South China Sea, including the recent presence of large Chinese vessels at Whitsun Reef, endanger peace and stability in the region.”

Chinese officials have sharply denied that Beijing is engaged in a provocation over Whitsun. In early April, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian appeared to tell reporters that the massing of Chinese ships near the reef was normal.

“It is a customary practice running over a thousand years for Chinese fishing boats to work and shelter in relevant waters,” he said. “I don’t know why relevant sides refer to the Chinese fishermen as ‘maritime militia.’ It shows malicious intent driven by ulterior motives.”

China denies incursion as 200 ships dock at Philippine reef

China denies incursion as 200 ships dock at Philippine reef

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By

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Monday, March 22, 2021

BEIJING (AP) – Bad weather prompted more than 200 Chinese fishing vessels to anchor at a reef claimed by the Philippines, Beijing said on Monday, sidestepping accusations from Manila of a move by China‘s vast South China Sea maritime militia to assert control in the area.

However, China‘s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying pointedly told reporters at a briefing Monday that Whitsun Reef was part of the Spratly Islands, one of the main archipelagoes in the South China Sea, which China claims virtually in its entirety.

“Recently, due to the sea conditions, some Chinese fishing boats have taken shelter from the wind near the Whitsun Reef. I think it is very normal and hope all parties can look at it rationally,” Hua said at the daily briefing.

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Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana called on Sunday for China to “stop this incursion and immediately recall these boats violating our maritime rights and encroaching into our sovereign territory.”

The presence of the vessels was a “provocative action of militarizing the area,” Lorenzana said.

A Philippine government watchdog overseeing the disputed region released pictures from March 7 of the vessels moored side by side in one of the most hotly contested areas of the strategic waterway. Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin tweeted late Sunday that the Philippines has filed a diplomatic protest over the Chinese presence.

The reef, which Manila calls Julian Felipe, is a shallow, boomerang-shaped coral region about 175 nautical miles (324 kilometers) west of Bataraza town in the western Philippine province of Palawan. It lies well within the country’s exclusive economic zone, over which the Philippines “enjoys the exclusive right to exploit or conserve any resources,” the government watchdog said.

For decades China, the Philippines and four other governments have been locked in a tense territorial standoff over the resource-rich South China Sea, through which an estimated $5 trillion in international trade travels annually.

China’s fishing fleets have long followed government orders to assist the coast guard and navy in asserting the country’s maritime claims. They have also been accused of massive overfishing and degrading coral reefs, backed up by a Chinese military that has built airfields and missile bases on manmade islands constructed by piling sand and concrete atop fragile marine ecosystems.

China has refused to recognize a 2016 ruling from a tribunal in The Hague that invalidated almost all of China‘s historical claims to the South China Sea, and routinely protests the presence of other countries’ navies in what are overwhelmingly viewed as international waters. China says it doesn’t restrict right of passage through the area, but has repeatedly sparred with other claimants over resource exploitation, military activities and even projects to explore ancient sea wrecks.

Philippine defense chief asks Chinese flotilla to leave reef

Philippine defense chief asks Chinese flotilla to leave reef

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In this March 7, 2021, photo provided by the Philippine Coast Guard/National Task Force-West Philippine Sea, some of the 220 Chinese vessels are seen moored at Whitsun Reef, South China Sea. The Philippine government expressed concern after spotting more than … more >

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By JIM GOMEZ

Associated Press

Saturday, March 20, 2021

MANILA, Philippines (AP) – The Philippine defense chief on Sunday demanded more than 200 Chinese vessels he said were manned by militias leave a South China Sea reef claimed by Manila, saying their presence was a “provocative action of militarizing the area.”

“We call on the Chinese to stop this incursion and immediately recall these boats violating our maritime rights and encroaching into our sovereign territory,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement, adding without elaborating that the Philippines would uphold its sovereign rights.

A government watchdog overseeing the disputed region said about 220 Chinese vessels were seen moored at Whitsun Reef, which Beijing also claims, on March 7. It released pictures of the vessels side by side in one of the most hotly contested areas of the strategic waterway.

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Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin tweeted late Sunday the Philippines has filed a diplomatic protest over the Chinese presence.

The reef, which Manila calls Julian Felipe, is a boomerang-shaped and shallow coral region about 175 nautical miles (324 kilometers) west of Bataraza town in the western Philippine province of Palawan. It’s well within the country’s exclusive economic zone, over which the Philippines “enjoys the exclusive right to exploit or conserve any resources,” the government watchdog said.

The large numbers of Chinese boats are “a concern due to the possible overfishing and destruction of the marine environment, as well as risks to safety of navigation,” it said, although it added that the vessels were not fishing when sighted.

Chinese fishing fleets have long been suspected of being utilized as maritime militias to help assert Beijing’s territorial claims, although China has played down those claims.

Philippine military chief Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said the military’s “utmost priority remains to be the protection of our citizens in the area, particularly our fishermen, through increased maritime patrols.”

Chinese Embassy officials did not immediately issue any comment. China, the Philippines and four other governments have been locked in a tense territorial standoff over the resource-rich and busy waterway for decades.

Critics have repeatedly called out President Rodrigo Duterte, who has nurtured friendly ties with Beijing since taking office in 2016, for not standing up to China’s aggressive behavior and deciding not to immediately demand Chinese compliance with an international arbitration ruling that invalidated Beijing’s historic claims to virtually the entire sea. China has refused to recognize the 2016 ruling, which it called “a sham,” and continues to defy it.

“When Xi says ‘I will fish,’ who can prevent him?” Duterte said two years ago as he defended his nonconfrontational approach, referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“If I send my marines to drive away the Chinese fishermen, I guarantee you not one of them will come home alive,” Duterte said then, adding that diplomatic talks with Beijing allowed the return of Filipinos to disputed fishing grounds where Chinese forces had previously shooed them away.

Duterte has sought infrastructure funds, trade and investments from China, which has also donated and pledged to deliver more COVID-19 vaccines as the Philippines faces an alarming spike in coronavirus infections.

EXPLAINER: What’s happened so far at China’s annual congress

EXPLAINER: What’s happened so far at China’s annual congress

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks during a remote video press conference held on the sidelines of the annual meeting of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing, Sunday, March 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein) more >

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By

Associated Press

Monday, March 8, 2021

BEIJING (AP) – Midway through its annual session, China’s ceremonial parliament is focusing on boosting the economy, building self-reliance in technology and further squeezing room for political opposition in Hong Kong. The weeklong meeting of the National People’s Congress, which rubber stamps policies approved by the Communist Party leadership, provides a window into government priorities.

SETTING AN ACHEIVABLE GROWTH TARGET

The party set a growth target of “over 6%”, as the world’s second-largest economy shrugs off the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, it departed from practice and didn’t set a target because of pandemic-related uncertainty. The target was lower than the 7% to 8% that forecasters expected and seen by some as signaling a shift from quantity to quality growth, including efforts to expand the green economy.

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ACCELERATING LEADING-EDGE TECHNOLOGY

Premier Li Keqiang vowed Friday to “work faster” to develop tech capabilities seen as a path to prosperity, strategic autonomy and international influence. The party is focused on becoming a global competitor in telecoms, electric cars and other profitable areas. Its tactics have inflamed trade tensions with the U.S. and and Europe and also raised security concerns. China has poured massive computing and human resources into artificial intelligence, including sometimes controversial technologies such as facial recognition.

CLOSING DOWN DISSENT IN HONG KONG

The congress has been given draft legislation that would give an Election Committee dominated by businesspeople and other pro-Beijing figures a role in choosing the members of the Hong Kong legislature. Wang Chen, a deputy chairman of the congress, said the committee would choose a “relatively large” share of the Legislative Council and have the right to vet all candidates. He did not provide specifics. A spokesman for the congress said that Beijing wants “patriots ruling Hong Kong,” fueling fears opposition voices will be shut out of the political process.

BEEFING UP THE MILITARY

The government announced a 6.8% rise in military spending to 1.4 trillion yuan ($217 billion), continuing a tradition of roughly tracking the economic growth target. Analysts say actual military spending is up to 40% more than the reported figure, the world’s second-highest after the United States. Recent years have seen a massive expansion of China’s naval capabilities as it seeks to assert its claims in the South China Sea. A deadly clash with India last year underscored the potential for conflict over their disputed border, while America’s prominent role in Asian security and its support for Taiwan, the self-governing democracy that China claims, raise the threat of conflict with the U.S.

NO ROOM FOR COMPROMISE ON TAIWAN

At an annual news conference on the sidelines of the session, Foreign Minister Wang Yi demanded the Biden administration reverse former President Donald Trump’s “dangerous practice” of showing support for Taiwan. China‘s claim to Taiwan, which split with the mainland in 1949, is an “insurmountable red line,” he said. Separately, Wu Qian, a spokesperson for the Defense Ministry and a delegate to the congress, said that China would not “renounce the use of force and reserve the right to take whatever measures are necessary.” The U.S. State Department expressed concern about Chinese attempts to intimidate Taiwan and other neighbors and said, “Our support for Taiwan is rock-solid.”

PURSUING GREEN INITIATIVES

The party pledged to reduce carbon emissions per unit of economic output by 18% over the next five years, in line with its goal for the previous five-year period. Environmentalists say China needs to do more. President Xi Jinping, the leader of the Communist Party, pledged last year to ensure that the country would be carbon neutral by 2060. Achieving that will require huge investments in clean energy for an economy that gets 60% of its power from coal. Chinese leaders are also pushing to reduce waste, especially of food, and increase recycling to handle the mountains of paper and plastic produced by a burgeoning consumer economy.

WHAT’S NEXT

The annual session, which has been reduced from two weeks to one because of the pandemic, finishes on Thursday. Li will give the premier’s annual news conference after the congress closes.

US-China tensions threaten global climate change efforts

US-China tensions threaten global climate change efforts

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FILE – In this Jan. 27, 2021, file photo, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington. The world’s hopes for curbing climate change hinge on action by two giant … more >

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By CHRISTINA LARSON and ELLEN KNICKMEYER

Associated Press

Thursday, March 4, 2021

WASHINGTON (AP) – The world’s hopes for curbing climate change hinge on action by two giant nations whose relations are deteriorating: China and the United States. The two countries both say they are intent on retooling their economies to burn less climate-wrecking coal, oil and gas. But tensions between them threaten their ultimate success.

China and the United States are the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 carbon polluters, respectively, pumping out nearly half of the fossil fuel fumes that are warming the planet’s atmosphere.

The fast cuts in carbon needed to stave off the worst of climate change are all but impossible unless these countries work together and basically trust each other’s pledges. During the Trump administration, the U.S. used China‘s emissions as an excuse not to act, and in the past China pointed to U.S. historical emissions as a reason to resist action.

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New details of how quickly China plans to reduce carbon emissions will be revealed Friday when Beijing releases its next Five Year Plan. And in April, President Joe Biden is expected to announce the United States’ own new targets for emissions cuts.

The U.S. and China both have appointed veteran envoys as their global climate negotiators, John Kerry and Xie Zhenhua. But while the two senior statesmen worked well together in laying groundwork for the 2015 Paris climate accord, now they face new challenges.

U.S.-China climate diplomacy threatens to be overshadowed by what the United States sees as Beijing’s menacing policies toward Hong Kong, Taiwan and the South China Sea, conflict over human rights and trade, and U.S. claims of Chinese espionage.

Meanwhile, Chinese officials are upset about restrictions imposed by the Trump administration on trade, technology, Chinese media and students in the U.S., and the State Department’s declaration this year that atrocities against China‘s Muslim minorities are a “genocide.”

Kerry, a secretary of state under President Barack Obama who was brought back to be Biden‘s climate envoy, recently told reporters: “Those issues” with China “will never be traded for anything that has to do with climate. That’s not going to happen.” But Kerry also called the climate “a standalone issue” with China, drawing criticism from China and from some human-rights advocates in the U.S.

Can climate talks between the two countries survive their other geopolitical battles?

“That’s, I think, the huge question,” said John Podesta, who oversaw the Obama administration’s climate efforts and is close to the Biden administration.

“Can you create a lane where you get cooperation on climate” while more contentious issues are dealt with separately? Podesta asked. “Or do they wind up interfering?”

Xie Zhenhua may help the odds. With his appointment as climate envoy last month, Xie is reprising the role he held during pivotal U.N. climate conferences that struck the world’s first major commitments on reducing emissions from fossil fuels.

Prior to his appointment, Xie led a research effort at Tsinghua University in Beijing to map ways for China to stop contributing to global warming by midcentury. His research underpinned President Xi Jinping’s surprise pledge in September that China planned to go carbon neutral by 2060 – the first time the country announced a net-zero target.

Joanna Lewis, an expert in China energy and environment at Georgetown University, called Xie “a visionary, and very influential in setting China’s domestic policy targets,” as well as a skilled negotiator.

Xie’s appointment “was a huge overture toward the United States, and particularly to John Kerry,” said Angel Hsu, an expert on China and climate change at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Biden has pledged the U.S. will switch to an emissions-free power sector within 14 years, and have an entirely emissions-free economy by 2050. Kerry is also pushing other nations to commit to carbon neutrality by then.

Behind the dry numbers, massive spending on infrastructure and technology is needed to switch to a more energy-efficient economy, running on wind, solar and other cleaner-burning fuels. And Biden has a narrow majority in Congress to push his agenda, with Republicans, as well as some Democrats, opposing his plans.

Climate scientists say countries need to move fast to avert catastrophic temperature rises.

In 2019, coal accounted for 58% of China’s total primary energy consumption, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Last year, as China‘s government directed economic relief money to infrastructure projects during the pandemic, the country actually upped its net power capacity from coal – by about the equivalent of 15 Hoover Dams, or 30 gigawatts – according to the Global Energy Monitor and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. China also funds building of coal-fired power plants abroad, partly to build influence.

Many experts question whether the construction of coal-fired plants is driven by demand, or simply meant to stimulate the economy during a downturn. Either way, the brand-new coal plants have consequences.

“Every new coal plant that China builds is basically locking in carbon emissions for the next 50 years,” said Georgetown’s Lewis.

The most important questions now, said Deborah Seligsohn, an expert in Chinese governance and air pollution at Villanova University, are: “How soon can China’s carbon emissions peak, and at what level?”

She is watching closely to see what targets are incorporated in the next Five Year Plan, and into China’s updated pledges for emission cuts under the Paris climate accord.

The key, climate negotiators say, will be making it worth China‘s while – financially and in terms of its international standing – to slow down its building and funding of new coal plants and speed up spending on clean energy.

Biden has reached out to European allies as a first step, trying to build consensus among China‘s trade partners about market and trade-based rewards and disincentives as a way of prodding China to reduce reliance on coal.

“None of these countries are wanting to save the planet and be completely selfless about this,” Christiana Figueres, who helped broker the landmark climate deal in 2015, told The Associated Press. “Only if it also serves their interest.”

___

Knickmeyer reported from Oklahoma City. AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to this report.

Biden brings no relief to tensions between US and China

Biden brings no relief to tensions between US and China

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In this Feb. 27, 2021, photo, President Joe Biden speaks on the economy in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) more >

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By MATTHEW LEE

Associated Press

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden took office promising to move quickly to restore and repair America’s relations with the rest of the world, but one major nation has yet to see any U.S. effort to improve ties: China.

From Iran to Russia, Europe to Latin America, Biden has sought to cool tensions that rose during President Donald Trump’s four years in office. Yet, there have been no overtures to China.

Although the Biden administration has halted the ferocious rhetorical attacks and near daily announcements of new sanctions on China that had become commonplace under Trump, it has yet to back down on any of Trump’s actions against Beijing.

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This persistent state of low-intensity hostility has profound implications. China and the United States are the world’s two largest economies and the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases. Their power struggle complicates global efforts to deal with climate change and recover from the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden‘s tough stance has its roots in the competition for global power, but it’s also a result of the 2020 presidential election campaign in which Trump and his allies repeatedly sought to portray him as soft on China, particularly during the pandemic that originated there. There’s also little appetite from lawmakers in either party to ease pressure on China.

Thus in their first month in office, Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have reaffirmed many of the Trump administration’s most significant steps targeting China, including a determination that its crackdown on Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in western Xinjiang region constitutes a “genocide” and a flat-out rejection of nearly all of China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea.

Nor has the new administration signaled any let-up in Trump’s tariffs, restrictions on Chinese diplomats, journalists and academics in the U.S. or criticism of Chinese policies toward Tibet, Taiwan and Hong Kong. It’s also critical of Beijing’s attempts to further its increasing global influence through telecommunications technology, social media and educational and cultural exchanges.

Biden‘s nominee to head the CIA, William Burns, was explicit about his concerns over many of these issues at his confirmation hearing Wednesday. And, the newly confirmed U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, made a point of highlighting her unease with the state of affairs and pledged to combat Chinese attempts to exert undue pressure on other countries at the U.N.

The backdrop is clear: The United States is convinced that it and China are engaged in a duel for global dominance. And neither is prepared to back down.

China has sounded at times hopeful that Biden will reverse what foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said were Trump administration actions that “caused immeasurable damage to the relationship between the two countries.”

Those remarks followed a speech in which China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, demanded that Biden’s administration lift restrictions on trade and people-to-people contacts and cease what Beijing considers unwarranted interference in the areas of Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet.

Wang urged the U.S. to “stop smearing” the reputation of China’s ruling Communist Party. “We hope that the U.S. policy makers will keep pace with the times, see clearly the trend of the world, abandon biases, give up unwarranted suspicions and move to bring the China policy back to reason to ensure a healthy, steady development of China-U.S. relations,” he said.

But the anti-China rhetoric hasn’t eased. Top Biden administration officials have vowed to use American power to contain what many Democrats and Republicans see as growing Chinese threats to U.S. interests and values in the Asia-Pacific and beyond.

They have all repeatedly referred to China as a strategic rival or foe, not a partner or potential friend, and have also evinced their belief that America must “outcompete” China.

“Outcompeting China will be key to our national security in the decades ahead,” Burns said at his confirmation hearing. “China is a formidable authoritarian adversary, methodically strengthening its capabilities to steal intellectual property, repress its own people, bully its neighbors, expand its global reach, and build influence in American society.”

“It is hard for me to see a more significant threat or challenge for the United States as far out as I can see into the 21st century than that one. It is the biggest geopolitical test that we face,” he said.

At least some Asia hands in the United States see Biden as moving slowly toward potential reengagement with China in part because he wants to shore up his domestic position and make clear the U.S. is not a victim of Chinese predation.

“They are restraining themselves from the normal syndrome of a new administration running into problem-solving with China,” said Danny Russel, who was assistant secretary of state for Asia during the Obama administration and is now vice president of the Asia Society Policy Institute.

Russel said Biden is “sending out messages that have the effect of showing he’s not soft on China, that he’s not a patsy for China, that he isn’t so desperate for a breakthrough on climate change that he’s going to trade away our national security interests.”

Chinese academics see little difference in Biden’s approach.

“Continuity takes precedent over adjustment and change,” said Zhu Feng, professor of international relations at elite Nanjing University.

Biden will have to deal with a China that is far more powerful and influential than under past U.S. administrations, said Yu Wanli, a professor of international relations at Beijing Language and Culture University.

“There has been huge deviation between what they believe China is and what China really is,” Yu said. “Their China polices are based on illusions, which must result in some bad consequences. It takes time for them to come back to reality.”

Apart from its support for Taiwan, the U.S. views China’s policies in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and elsewhere as matters of human rights, whereas China sees them as questions of sovereignty, Yu said. “Frictions will still exist, and the pattern will still be the same.”

Chinese vaccines sweep much of the world, despite concerns

Chinese vaccines sweep much of the world, despite concerns

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FILE – In this Dec. 23, 2020, file photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, a Sinovac worker checks the labeling on vials of COVID-19 vaccines on a packaging line in Beijing. With just four of China’s many vaccine makers … more >

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By HUIZHONG WU and KRISTEN GELINEAU

Associated Press

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) – The plane laden with vaccines had just rolled to a stop at Santiago’s airport in late January, and Chile’s president, Sebastián Piñera, was beaming. “Today,” he said, “is a day of joy, emotion and hope.”

The source of that hope: China – a country that Chile and dozens of other nations are depending on to help rescue them from the COVID-19 pandemic.

China’s vaccine diplomacy campaign has been a surprising success: It has pledged roughly half a billion doses of its vaccine to more than 45 countries, according to a country-by-country tally by The Associated Press. With just four of China’s many vaccine makers able to produce at least 2.6 billion doses this year, a large part of the world’s population will end up inoculated not with the fancy Western vaccines boasting headline-grabbing efficacy rates, but with China’s humble, traditionally made shots.

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Amid a dearth of public data on China’s vaccines, fears over their efficacy and safety are still pervasive in the countries depending on them, along with concerns about what China might want in return for deliveries. Nonetheless, inoculations with Chinese vaccines have begun in more than 25 countries, and the shots have been delivered to another 11, according to AP’s tally, based on independent reporting in those countries along with government and company announcements.

It’s a potential face-saving coup for China, which has been determined to transform itself from an object of mistrust over its initial mishandling of the COVID-19 outbreak to a savior.

“We’re seeing certainly real-time vaccine diplomacy start to play out, with China in the lead in terms of being able to manufacture vaccines within China and make them available to others,” said Krishna Udayakumar, founding director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center at Duke University.

China has said it is supplying “vaccine aid” to 53 countries and exports to 27, but it rejected a request by the AP for the list. Beijing has denied vaccine diplomacy, and a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said China considered the vaccine a “global public good.” Chinese experts reject any connection between the export of its vaccines and the revamping of its image.

China has targeted the low- and middle-income countries largely left behind as rich nations scooped up most of the pricey vaccines produced by the likes of Pfizer and Moderna. And despite a few delays of its own, China has largely capitalized on slower-than-hoped-for deliveries by U.S. and European vaccine makers.

Like many other countries, Chile received far fewer doses of the Pfizer vaccine than first promised. Chinese company Sinovac acted quickly, sending in 4 million doses.

The choices are limited for Chile and many other low- and middle-income countries. Vaccine deployment globally has been dominated by rich nations, which have snapped up 5.4 billion of the 7.8 billion doses purchased worldwide, according to Duke University.

China’s vaccines, which can be stored in standard refrigerators, are attractive to many countries that may struggle to accommodate the ultracold storage needs of vaccines like Pfizer’s.

Sinovac and Sinopharm rely on a traditional technology in which a live virus is killed and then purified, triggering an immune response. Some countries view it as safer than the newer, less-proven technology used by some Western competitors that targets the coronavirus’ spike protein, despite the lack of publicly available safety data on the Chinese vaccines.

In Europe, China is providing the vaccine to countries such as Serbia and Hungary — a significant geopolitical victory in Central Europe and the Balkans, where the West, China and Russia are competing for political and economic influence. Hungary is the first EU country to use a Chinese vaccine.

But China’s vaccine diplomacy will be only as good as the vaccines it is offering, and it still faces hurdles.

“The Chinese vaccine, in particular, there was insufficient data available compared to other vaccines,” said Ahmed Hamdan Zayed, a nurse in Egypt who overcame his initial reluctance and got Sinopharm’s vaccine.

Sinopharm, which said its vaccine was 79% effective based on interim data from clinical trials, did not respond to interview requests.

Chinese vaccine companies have been “slow and spotty” in releasing their trial data, compared to companies like Pfizer and Moderna, said Yanzhong Huang, a global health expert at the U.S. think tank Council for Foreign Relations. None of China’s three vaccine candidates used globally have publicly released their late-stage clinical trial data. CanSino, another Chinese company with a one-shot vaccine that it says is 65% effective, declined to be interviewed.

There is also confusion around Sinovac’s efficacy. In Turkey, where Sinovac conducted part of its efficacy trials, officials have said the vaccine was 91% effective. However, in Brazil, officials revised the efficacy rate in late-stage clinical trials from 78% to just over 50% after including mild infections.

An expert panel in Hong Kong published data submitted by Sinovac to health regulators that showed the vaccine was just over 50% effective.

Globally, public health officials have said any vaccine that is at least 50% effective is useful.

Receiving countries are also worried that China’s vaccine diplomacy may come at a cost. In the Philippines, where Beijing is donating 600,000 vaccines, a senior diplomat said China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, gave a subtle message to tone down public criticism of growing Chinese assertiveness in the disputed South China Sea.

The senior diplomat said Wang didn’t ask for anything in exchange for vaccines, but it was clear he wanted “friendly exchanges in public, like control your megaphone diplomacy a little.” The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the issue publicly.

Still, the pandemic’s urgency has largely superseded hesitations over China’s vaccines.

“Vaccines, particularly those made in the West, are reserved for rich countries,” said one Egyptian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter. “We had to guarantee a vaccine. Any vaccine.”

___

Associated Press researcher Chen Si in Shanghai, and AP reporters Patricia Luna in Santiago, Chile; Sam Magdy in Cairo; Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines; Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia; Justin Spike in Budapest, Hungary; Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Serbia; and Allen G. Breed in Raleigh, North Carolina, contributed to this report.

China rapidly expanding military assets in South China Sea, admiral says

China rapidly expanding military assets in South China Sea, admiral says

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A Chinese national flag flutters against the office buildings in Shanghai, China. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File) more >

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By Bill Gertz

The Washington Times

Thursday, February 11, 2021

China’s military increased both warship and warplane missions in the South China where two U.S. aircraft carriers recently conducted operations to bolster international rights to the seas there, the commander of a carrier strike group in the region said.

“Far more numbers,” said Rear Adm. Doug Verissimo, commander of the strike group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier, in a briefing for reporters. “We’re seeing larger number of aircraft, larger number of ships available to the Chinese military and being utilized on a daily basis.”

Adm. Verissimo said the dual carrier operations mark the third time he has deployed to the sea since 2017, “and the number of forces we see in all domains has increased significantly.”

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The two carriers, along with accompanying warships, include 10,000 sailors and Marines in a major show of force in the region, but the admiral said the passage was uneventful.

China‘s naval forces frequently confront U.S. warships in the South China Sea and order them to leave the area — orders that are ignored by the Navy in declaring the sea international waters.

China has claimed 90% of the South China Sea as its maritime territory, a claim rejected by an international tribunal several years ago.

The Roosevelt was joined this week by the carrier group led by the USS Nimitz for exercises aimed at bolstering regional allies and assuring the strategic waterway remains “free and open for all,” Adm. Verissimo told reporters, while adding that China‘s naval and air forces have increased sharply in recent years.

China began a major buildup of military forces in 2012 after taking over the disputed Scarborough Shoal that is claimed by the Philippines. The Obama administration did not respond to Philippine government requests for assistance under a mutual defense treaty. That set in motion a major island-building program by China that resulted in some 3,200 acres of new islands being formed within five years.

According to the Pentagon’s latest annual report on the Chinese military, China has deployed advanced YJ-12B anti-ship missiles on several outposts in the South China Sea. Additionally, China is augmenting littoral warfare vessels in both the South China Sea by deploying large numbers of Type 056 corvettes, designed for anti-submarine warfare, and Houbei-class wave-piercing catamarans patrol boats armed with guided missiles.

China test-fired two types of anti-ship ballistic missiles, the DF-21D and the DF-26, into the South China Sea in August.

Rear Adm. James Kirk, commander of the Nimitz strike group, said his forces are aware of the potential danger the anti-ship ballistic missiles pose to U.S. carriers.

“We’re operating in a way that is respectful of those capabilities,” Adm. Kirk said. “We can defend our forces if we’re called upon to do that.”

More than 10,000 Chinese Marines also are deployed in the region for military operations.

In addition to People’s Liberation Army forces, China uses scores of ships and boats of the People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia (PAFMM).

“In the South China Sea, the PAFMM plays a major role in coercive activities to achieve [China‘s] political goals without fighting, part of broader Chinese military theory that sees confrontational operations short of war as an effective means of accomplishing political objectives,” the Pentagon report said.

The militia was involved in other incidents, including the 2009 harassment of the Navy surveillance ship Impeccable and a standoff in 2012 over Scarborough Reef.

The report said DF-21D and DF-26 missiles are “specifically designed to hold adversary aircraft carriers at risk” from long distances. China also is installing undersea monitoring systems that could improve the missiles’ accuracy.

The PLA also has a “robust and redundant” integrated air defenses, large numbers of jet fighters and surface-to-air missiles.

“The construction of new airfields and hangars on outposts in the South China Sea extends the possible operating areas of PLA aviation forces,” the report warned.

Adm. Verissimo said of the buildup: “It’s a significant increase in their operations and it has been, I would say, steadily increasing.”

Adm. Kirk said the dual carrier show of force supports regional security and demonstrates American resolve. Both warship groups are part of the Navy’s 7th Fleet.

“A consistent presence by the United States in support of freedom of navigation safeguards the norms and security for all nations in the Indo-Pacific,” Adm. Kirk said.

Adm. Verissimo declined to comment on news reports that China’s military had practiced conducting airstrikes against an aircraft carrier.

“I wouldn’t want to go into our operations and a Chinese simulated attack vs. a training mission,” he said.

Taiwan says ties with US strong amid threats from China

Taiwan says ties with US strong amid threats from China

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By

Associated Press

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) – As the U.S. Navy asserts its presence in the South China Sea, Taiwan’s leader says its ties with Washington remain solid over the transition from the Trump to the Biden administration.

President Tsai Ing-wen said Tuesday that U.S. military support remains firm even as China sends increasing numbers of military aircraft into Taiwan‘s southwestern airspace.

“I would like to reiterate that Taiwan will not back down when receiving pressure and will not rashly advance when receiving support,” Tsai said in a traditional Lunar New Year television address.

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“As long as the Beijing authorities are willing to resolve conflicts, we also want to have a dialogue with them under the conditions of equality and dignity,” Tsai said.

While China and the U.S. have indicated a desire to curtail the raw animosity of the Trump years, both the Democratic and Republican parties maintain strong support for Taiwan and a tough approach toward China over trade, human rights and its increasingly assertive military and foreign policies.

Tsai’s remarks came as the U.S. Pacific Fleet conducted exercises in the South China Sea combining ships and planes from the aircraft carriers Theodore Roosevelt and Nimitz. The exercises Tuesday were aimed at “increasing interoperability between assets as well as command and control capabilities,” the U.S. 7th Fleet said in a statement.

“The ships and aircraft of the two strike groups coordinated operations in a highly trafficked area to demonstrate the U.S. Navy’s ability to operate in challenging environments.” it said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the U.S. exercises were not conducive to regional peace and stability.

China will continue to take necessary measures to firmly defend its national sovereignty and security and work with regional countries to firmly maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea,” he said.

China claims ownership over virtually the entire South China Sea and has built military installations on reefs and atolls by covering them with sand and concrete.

Taiwan holds Taiping Island in the highly contested Spratly group, joining Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam in actively challenging China‘s ambition to exert control over the area, through which an estimated $5 trillion in international trade travels annually. The waterway also has rich fish stocks and undersea oil and gas reserves.

Japan expresses concern to UK over new Chinese maritime law

Japan expresses concern to UK over new Chinese maritime law

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Japan’s Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, left, and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi attend a video conference with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Defense Minister Ben Wallace on screen, not seen, at the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo, Feb. 3 2021. Both … more >

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By MARI YAMAGUCHI

Associated Press

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

TOKYO (AP) – Japan‘s foreign minister and defense minister expressed strong concern to their British counterparts on Wednesday over a new Chinese maritime law that took effect two days earlier.

Japan is staying alert and paying close attention to its effect on us,” Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said in online talks between the two sides. “I believe the law should not be used in a way that violates international law.”

Japan sees China’s escalating influence and military activity in the region as a security threat and has been stepping up defense cooperation with the U.S., Australia, Southeast Asian countries, as well as Britain.

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The new Chinese Coast Guard Law, which increases the possibility of clashes with regional rivals, empowers the force to “take all necessary measures, including the use of weapons, when national sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction are being illegally infringed upon by foreign organizations or individuals at sea.”

It also authorizes the coast guard to demolish other countries’ structures built on areas claimed by China and to seize or order foreign vessels illegally entering China’s territorial waters to leave.

“We would like to share our strong concern with you” about the law, Motegi, accompanied by Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, told British counterparts Dominic Raab and Ben Wallace, who joined them from London.

China’s coast guard is active near disputed East China Sea islands controlled by Japan but claimed by Beijing. China also claims virtually the entire South China Sea.

The coast guard’s activities have brought it into frequent contact with the Japanese coast guard and air force.

In a joint statement released after the talks, the ministers expressed “serious concerns” about the rising tension in the regional seas and urged all parties “to exercise self-restraint and refrain from activities likely to raise tensions, in particular militarization and coercion.”

They also expressed “grave concerns” over China’s crackdown on opposition in Hong Kong and “gross human rights violations being perpetrated against Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang,” according to the statement.

The ministers also agreed to deepen defense and security cooperation between Japan and Britain to ensure a “free and open Indo-Pacific” vision that Japan promotes with the U.S., Australia and India to counter China.

Japan and Britain are jointly developing an air-to-air missile defense system and increasing the inter-operability of defense equipment and technology as their troops work together more closely.

Kishi welcomed the planned dispatch of a British aircraft carrier strike group this year to East Asia as part of Britain’s growing commitment to the region.

Wallace said the Asia visit for the strike group, led by the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, was “the most significant Royal Navy deployment in a generation.”

The British government, which is seeking to boost the country’s global profile after Brexit, said the U.K.-Japan meeting was part of an “Indo-Pacific tilt” toward Asian allies.

Raab said the new focus “demonstrates our shared priorities and common strategic interests from maritime security to climate change and free trade.”

___

Associated Press writer Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.

NSA hacked Huawei routers

How NSA hacked Huawei’s routers

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A hacking unit at the National Security Agency was able to penetrate Huawei Technologies routers to steal secrets around the world. (Associated Press/File) more >

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By Bill Gertz

The Washington Times

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Documents leaked from the National Security Agency in 2014 revealed that the nation’s premier spy service was secretly stealing electronic and other secrets by hacking Huawei Technologies telecommunications gear used widely in China and around the world.

The sensational spying operation, code-named Shotgiant, was scuttled by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor now living in Russia who disclosed the top-secret hacking after stealing nearly 2 million NSA documents and releasing them to the press.

Inside the Ring can now disclose how the NSA was able to conduct its electronic spying operations around the world, penetrating Huawei‘s routers and listening to the communications that passed through them.

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A person familiar with the operation said cyberspies working for the NSA‘s Tailored Access Operations group, the secret hacking unit based near Baltimore-Washington International Airport, were able to get inside Huawei equipment because of an earlier hack of Cisco Systems routers.

In the early, 2000s, Huawei was sued by Cisco for stealing portions of Cisco’s Internetwork Operating System, or IOS — a family of software used in the company’s routers and switches. The case was settled quietly out of court.

Unbeknownst to Huawei, the stolen technology included the same software NSA had successfully broken into in Cisco routers. Thus, all Huawei equipment became giant listing posts for the cyberspies.

The ability to steal secrets from telecom gear was confirmed in an internal NSA memorandum from around 2012 that discussed big-router hacking.

“I’m not talking about your home ADSL router. I’m talking about bigger routers, such as Ciscos/Junipers/Huaweis used by [internet providers] for their infrastructure,” an NSA technician wrote. “Hacking routers has been good business for us and our [Five Eyes] partners for some time now, but it is becoming more apparent that other nation states are honing their skills and joining the scene.”

“Five Eyes” refers to the U.S. close intelligence-sharing alliance with Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Britain.

Router hacking, the memo explained, allows spies to add login credentials that permit remote access “anytime you choose.”

Routing rules also can be added or changed. Using “packet capture” capabilities in the equipment was described as “like a local listening post for any credentials being passed over the wire!”

Another spying tool from hacked routers is weakening the encryption for virtual private networks so the NSA could create easily decipherable information streams.

Finally, the NSA used hacked routers to install “a dorked [manipulated] version of the operating system with whatever functionality you want pre-built in,” the memo said.

With Mr. Snowden’s leaks in 2014, the NSA lost the ability to spy on one of the most significant intelligence targets: China. Another NSA document revealed that the agency was spying on Huawei to learn its links to the Chinese military and the ruling Communist Party.

“Many of our targets communicate over Huawei-produced products, we want to make sure that we know how to exploit these products. We also want to ensure that we retain access to these communication lines, etc.,” the NSA stated in a briefing slide.

“There is also concern that Huawei‘s widespread infrastructure will provide [China] with SIGINT capabilities and enable them to perform denial-of-service type attacks,” the slide stated, using the term for signals intelligence.

One slide quoted a national intelligence estimate from the early years of the Obama administration warning that America’s cyberinfrastructure faced a growing threat from hackers.

“We assess with high confidence that the increasing role of international companies and foreign individuals in U.S. information technology supply chains and services will increase the potential for persistent, stealthy subversions,” the national intelligence estimate stated.

A spokesman for NSA had no immediate comment. A Representative of Cisco did not return an email seeking comment.

CARRIER STRIKE GROUP IN SOUTH CHINA SEA

The USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier strike group is conducting operations in the South China Sea, sending a signal to Beijing that it does not own the strategic waterway.

The Pacific Fleet posted an update about the carrier and its accompanying warships this week, saying on Facebook that they were “conducting routine U.S. 7th Fleet maritime security operations, including flight operations with fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, maritime strike exercises, and coordinated tactical training between surface and air units.”

“After sailing through these waters throughout my 30-year career, it’s great to be in the South China Sea again, conducting routine operations, promoting freedom of the seas, and reassuring allies and partners,” said Rear Adm. Doug Verissimo, commander of Carrier Strike Group 9.

“With two-thirds of the world’s trade traveling through this very important region, it is vital that we maintain our presence and continue to promote the rules-based order which has allowed us all to prosper,” the admiral added. “While we miss visiting our allies and partners in the region in person, we’re grateful for all the opportunities we have to operate with them at sea.”

China has been conducting naval and aerial surveillance near the carrier, but no provocations or incidents have been reported.

“We all benefit from free and open access to the seas, and our operations represent our commitment to maintaining regional security and stability,” said Capt. Eric Anduze, the Roosevelt’s commanding officer.

In addition to the carrier and its warplanes, warships in the group include the guided missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill, and guided missile destroyers USS Russell and USS John Finn.

NSA SECURES F-22 SOFTWARE

At one time, the National Security Agency was so secret that even its name was classified. Uttering the three words could land someone in hot water for violating secrecy rules. Now the agency, once dubbed “No Such Agency” for its penchant for anonymity, has raised its profile significantly.

Earlier this month, the NSA published an annual report on its 2020 cybersecurity activities, most of which in the past would have been considered top-secret.

The report reveals that the agency “rekeyed” the encryption software used on board all 165 F-22 stealth fighters. The security measure is done each year.

Military software used on the F-22 includes NATO-standard Link 16 communications software, advanced “friend or foe” identification software, sensor fusion software for overhead views and anti-jamming, military-grade GPS links.

If Chinese or Russian hackers obtain the keys or other secrets about the software, then enemy military hackers could penetrate the jet software and cause it to malfunction or crash during a conflict.

The NSA also is working to upgrade the codes used for securing other weapons systems, including the launch codes for nuclear missiles.

“Foremost in NSA‘s code-making mission is the production of the nuclear ‘launch codes’ and related materials that would be used should the president ever authorize the launch of U.S. nuclear weapons,” the report said. “NSA also provides the encryption in the communications systems used to convey those orders.”

The NSA is responsible for making the codes, the keys and equipment used to protect government and military communications from foreign eavesdropping and data theft.

The agency also develops cryptographic protective technologies that were not specified in the report.

“These technologies are important in preventing or detecting adversaries from physically exploiting cryptographic equipment and classified material while they are deployed or shipped around the world,” the report said.

The function appears to involve the use of anti-tamper and tamper-indicating equipment or software that will alert security officials if communications gear is targeted. According to the report, the NSA delivered 108,421 tamper-related products to customers around the world in 2020.

One new worry for the NSA is the development of quantum computing that could render current electronic eavesdropping nearly impossible.

The NSA is working to make defense systems resistant to such advanced computer exploitation.

“Such a computer is still theoretical, but its development could render large swaths of the U.S. cryptographic inventory obsolete,” the report said. “Thus, the [Defense Department and the intelligence community] are relying heavily on NSA, with substantial fiscal investments to field next-generation encryption.”

As part of the new security, the NSA approved a new suite of “quantum-resistant cryptographic algorithms” used in defense and intelligence networks. The secure software will counter “a range of potential threats for future use in equipment supporting the warfighter.”

The report makes no mention of the massive SolarWinds hack of government and private computer systems that U.S. officials have said has the hallmarks of a Moscow intelligence operation.

SolarWinds is a management software company whose Orion software is used widely in computer networks. Some 18,000 networks were hit in the cyberattack, which allowed the hackers to gain access to sensitive information, including from the Treasury and Homeland Security Departments.

The White House said President Biden brought up the hacking operation in his first phone call since the election with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Eighteen months ago, several colleagues and I discussed the results of an internal study to examine the state of the cybersecurity mission at NSA,” Anne Neuberger, NSA cybersecurity director, stated in the report. “The findings were grim. As technology and the cyberthreat had rapidly evolved, it was clear we had not always kept pace.”

An NSA cybersecurity directorate was created shortly after the study to remedy the shortcomings.

Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter at @BillGertz.

Philippines protests new China law as `verbal threat of war’

Philippines protests new China law as `verbal threat of war’

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FILE – In this July 22, 2019, file photo, protesters display a balloon with an anti-China message during a rally near the Philippine Congress in Manila, Philippines. The Philippines has protested a new Chinese law that authorizes its coast guard … more >

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By JIM GOMEZ

Associated Press

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

MANILA, Philippines (AP) – The Philippines has protested a new Chinese law that authorizes its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels and destroy other countries’ structures on islands it claims, Manila’s top diplomat said Wednesday.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said in a tweet that the new Chinese law “is a verbal threat of war to any country that defies” it. Failure to challenge the law “is submission to it,” he said.

“While enacting law is a sovereign prerogative, this one – given the area involved, or for that matter the open South China Sea – is a verbal threat of war to any country that defies the law,” Locsin said.

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China’s Coast Guard Law, which was passed on Friday, empowers the force to “take all necessary measures, including the use of weapons, when national sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction are being illegally infringed upon by foreign organizations or individuals at sea.”

The law also authorizes the coast guard to demolish other countries’ structures built on reefs and islands claimed by China and to seize or order foreign vessels illegally entering China’s territorial waters to leave.

The Chinese law raises the stakes and the possibility of clashes with regional maritime rivals.

The Philippine protest is the latest strongly worded public criticism by Manila of China’s increasingly assertive actions in the disputed waters, despite cozier ties nurtured by President Rodrigo Duterte with Beijing. Last July, Locsin warned China of “the severest response” if military exercises being staged by China’s People’s Liberation Army in the South China Sea spilled over into Philippine territory.

China and the Philippines, along with Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei, have been locked in territorial rivalries in the South China Sea in tense decades-long standoffs. Indonesian forces also have had confrontations with the Chinese coast guard and fishing flotillas in what Indonesian officials say are their territorial waters near the South China Sea.

The United States has no claims in the strategic waterway but its naval forces have challenged China’s territorial claims over virtually the entire sea. China has warned the U.S. to stay away from what it says is a purely Asian dispute but Washington has said it would continue to deploy its warships to the disputed region.

A U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, sailed into the South China Sea on Saturday to conduct “routine operations,” promote freedom of the seas and reassure America’s allies, Rear Admiral Doug Verissimo said in a statement.

Tensions flared in recent years after China transformed seven disputed reefs in the Spratlys, the most hotly contested region in the South China Sea, into missile-protected island bases, including three with military-grade runways. China and Southeast Asian nations have been negotiating a regional “code of conduct” to discourage aggression in the disputed waters but the talks have been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

China’s coast guard is also active in the vicinity of uninhabited East China Sea islands controlled by Japan but claimed by Beijing.

Analysis: Biden faces a more confident China after US chaos

Analysis: Biden faces a more confident China after US chaos

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A newsstand vendor looks through his display near a magazine with a cover depicting U.S. President Joe Biden near U.S. and Chinese flags in Beijing on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. As a new U.S. president takes office, he faces a … more >

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By KEN MORITSUGU

Associated Press

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

BEIJING (AP) – As a new U.S. president takes office, he faces a determined Chinese leadership that could be further emboldened by America’s troubles at home.

The disarray in America, from the rampant COVID-19 pandemic to the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, gives China’s ruling Communist Party a boost as it pursues its long-running quest for national “rejuvenation” – a bid to return the country to what it sees as its rightful place as a major nation.

For Joe Biden, sworn in Wednesday as the 46th president, that could make one of his major foreign policy challenges even more difficult as he tries to manage an increasingly contentious relationship between the world’s rising power and its established one.

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The stakes are high for both countries and the rest of the world. A misstep could spark an accidental conflict in the Western Pacific, where China‘s growing naval presence is bumping up against America’s. The trade war under President Donald Trump hurt workers and farmers in both countries, though some in Vietnam and elsewhere benefited as companies moved production outside China. On global issues such as climate, it is difficult to make progress if the world’s two largest economies aren’t talking.

The Chinese government expressed hope Thursday that Biden would return to dialogue and cooperation after the divisiveness under Trump.

“It is normal for China and the United States to have some differences,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said. “Countries with different social systems, cultural backgrounds and ideologies should and can coexist … and work together to achieve peace and stability and development in the world.”

But Kurt Tong, a former U.S. diplomat in Asia, sees a stalemate in the coming few years in which China keeps doing what it has been doing and the U.S. is not happy about it.

“I think it’s going to be a tough patch, it’s just going to be more disagreements than agreements and not a lot of breakthroughs,” said Tong, now a partner with The Asia Group consultancy in Washington, D.C.

A more confident China may push back harder on issues such as technology, territory and human rights. Analysts draw parallels to the 2008 global financial crisis, from which China emerged relatively unscathed. The country’s foreign policy has grown increasingly assertive since then, from staking out territory in disputed waters in the South China Sea to its more recent use of Twitter to hit back at critics. China‘s relative success in controlling the pandemic could fuel that trend.

The U.S. has also shifted, with wide support among both Republicans and Democrats for treating China as a competitor, and embracing the need for a tougher approach to China, if not always agreeing with how Trump carried it out. Biden needs to be wary of opening himself up to attacks that he is soft on China if he rolls back import tariffs and other steps taken by his predecessor.

His pressing need to prioritize domestic challenges could give China breathing room to push forward its agenda, whether it be technological advancement or territorial issues from Taiwan to its border with India.

Biden has pointed to potential areas of cooperation, from climate change to curbing North Korea’s nuclear weapons development, but even in those areas, the two countries don’t always agree.

The pandemic, first viewed as a potential threat to President Xi Jinping’s leadership as it spiraled out of control in the city of Wuhan in early 2020, has been transformed into a story of hardship followed by triumph.

The Communist Party has sought to use the pandemic to justify its continued control of the one-party, authoritarian state it has led for more than 70 years, while rounding up citizen-journalists and others to quash any criticism of its handling of the outbreak.

That effort has been aided by the failure of many other nations to stop the spread of COVID-19. Biden takes over a country where deaths continue to mount and virus-related restrictions keep it in recession. China is battling small outbreaks, but life has largely returned to normal and economic growth is accelerating.

“It would have been more difficult for them to push that narrative around the world if the United States had not done such a poor job,” said Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington, D.C. “That’s a theme that runs through many issues, that China’s just able to point to the United States and democracy in general as not delivering good governance.”

It’s impossible to gauge support for the Communist Party in a country where many would be unwilling to criticize it publicly, for fear of repercussions. But Niu Jun, an international relations professor at Peking University, said that objectively, public trust should rise given China‘s faster recovery from the outbreak.

“To ordinary people, the logic is very simple,” he said, predicting the pandemic would spark public thinking and discussion about which system of governance is more effective.

“The party’s policies are good, our policies are not like the ones in foreign countries, ours are good,” said Liu Shixiu, strolling with her daughter in Wuhan, the city that bore the brunt of the pandemic in China. “We listen to the party.”

It is unclear whether the Communist Party foresees exporting its way of governance as an alternative to the democratic model. For now, Chinese officials note that countries choose different systems and stress the need for others to respect those differences.

“As China becomes more and more confident, maybe they’ll try to shape the internal operations or ways of thinking of other countries,” Tong said. “But to me, it feels more like they don’t want anyone to be able to say that China is bad and get away with it.”

The leadership wants China to be seen and treated as an equal and has shown a willingness to use its growing economic and military might to try to get its way.

___

Associated Press video journalist Emily Wang Fujiyama contributed to this report.

___

Moritsugu, The Associated Press’ news director for Greater China, has reported in Asia for more than 15 years.

China labels Pompeo ‘doomsday clown’ over genocide claims

China labels Pompeo ‘doomsday clown’ over genocide claims

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In this file photo taken Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, a protester from the Uighur community living in Turkey, holds an anti-China placard during a protest in Istanbul against what they allege is oppression by the Chinese government to Muslim Uighurs … more >

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By

Associated Press

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

BEIJING (AP) — China’s Foreign Ministry described outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday as a “doomsday clown” and said his designation of China as a perpetrator of genocide and crimes against humanity was merely “a piece of wastepaper.”

The allegations of abuses against Muslim minority groups in China‘s Xinjiang region are “outright sensational pseudo-propositions and a malicious farce concocted by individual anti-China and anti-Communist forces represented by Pompeo,” spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters at a daily briefing.

“In our view, Pompeo’s so-called designation is a piece of wastepaper. This American politician, who is notorious for lying and deceiving, is turning himself into a doomsday clown and joke of the century with his last madness and lies of the century,” Hua said.

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Pompeo’s announcement Tuesday doesn’t require any immediate actions, although the U.S. must take the designation into account in formulating policy toward China. China says its policies in Xinjiang aim only to promote economic growth and social stability.

The U.S. has previously spoken out and taken action on Xinjiang, implementing a range of sanctions against senior Chinese Communist Party leaders and state-run enterprises that fund repressive policies in the vast, resource-rich region. Last week, the Trump administration announced it would halt imports of cotton and tomatoes from Xinjiang, with Customs and Border Protection officials saying they would block products from there suspected of being produced with forced labor.

Many of the Chinese officials accused of having taken part in repression are already under U.S. sanctions. The “genocide” designation means new measures will be easier to impose.

Tuesday’s move is the latest in a series of steps the outgoing Trump administration has taken to ramp up pressure on China over issues from human rights and the coronavirus pandemic to Taiwan, Tibet, Hong Kong and the South China Sea. China has responded with its own sanctions and tough rhetoric.

China has imprisoned more than 1 million people, including Uighurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups, in a vast network of prison-like political indoctrination camps, according to U.S. officials and human rights groups. People have been subjected to torture, sterilization and political indoctrination in addition to forced labor as part of an assimilation campaign in a region whose inhabitants are ethnically and culturally distinct from the Han Chinese majority.

The Associated Press reported on widespread forced birth control among the Uighurs last year, including the mass sterilization of Muslim women, even while family planning restrictions are loosened on members of China‘s dominant Han ethnic group.

China has denied all the charges, but Uighur forced labor has been linked by reporting by the AP to various products imported to the U.S., including clothing and electronic goods such as cameras and computer monitors.

James Leibold, a specialist in Chinese ethnic policy at La Trobe in Melbourne, Australia, said international pressure appears to have had some effect on Chinese policies in Xinjiang, particularly in prompting the government to release information about the camps and possibly reducing mass detentions.

“So hopefully we’ll see a continued continuity with regards to the new (Joe Biden) administration on holding China to account,” Leibold said in an interview.

“And hopefully the Biden administration can bring its allies along to continue to put pressure on the Chinese government,” he said.

___

Associated Press journalist Dake Kang contributed to this report.

US imposes new sanction on Beijing over South China Sea

US imposes new sanction on Beijing over South China Sea

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool) more >

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By MATTHEW LEE

Associated Press

Thursday, January 14, 2021

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Trump administration on Thursday imposed new sanctions on Chinese officials over Beijing‘s increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea. The penalties are yet another Trump administration move that may make President-elect Joe Biden’s diplomacy with China more difficult when he takes office next week.

In its waning days, the Trump administration put in place travel bans on an unspecified number of Chinese officials and their families for what it said were violations of international standards regarding the freedom of navigation in those waters. The administration also said it was adding China‘s state oil company, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, to a list of companies with which U.S. citizens are banned from doing business.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the sanctions less than a week Inauguration Day, next Wednesday, in what is the latest in a series of last-minute U.S. moves against China.

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“The United States stands with Southeast Asian claimant states seeking to defend their sovereign rights and interests, consistent with international law,” Pompeo said. “We will continue to act until we see Beijing cease its coercive behavior in the South China Sea.”

Since the fall of 2019, the administration has steadily pressured China over human rights issues in Tibet, Hong Kong and the western region of Xinjiang, as well as over trade, Taiwan and the Chinese response to the coronavirus pandemic. On Wednesday, the administration banned the import to the U.S. of some agricultural goods, provoking an angry response from Beijing.

Thursday’s move affects Chinese officials and others involved in South China Sea activities. The announcement did not specific which officials would be targeted but many may be covered under previous actions,

In July, Pompeo announced that the U.S. would reject virtually all of China‘s maritime claims in the South China Sea, which are disputed by most of China‘s smaller neighbors.

Trump admin. blacklists Chinese National Overseas Oil Corporation citing security threat

Trump admin. blacklists Chinese National Overseas Oil Corporation citing security threat

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Wilbur Louis Ross, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, addresses a press conference during the 50th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, WEF, in Davos, Switzerland, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. (Alessandro della Valle/Keystone via AP) more >

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By Lauren Toms

The Washington Times

Thursday, January 14, 2021

The Chinese National Overseas Oil Corporation was blacklisted by the U.S. Commerce Department Thursday after reports that it aided China in its efforts to “intimidate” neighbors in the South China Sea. 

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement that the company was added to an economic blacklist for posing a threat to U.S. national security. 

China’s reckless and belligerent actions in the South China Sea and its aggressive push to acquire sensitive intellectual property and technology for its militarization efforts are a threat to U.S. national security and the security of the international community,” Mr. Ross said.

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CNOOC acts a bully for the People’s Liberation Army to intimidate China’s neighbors, and the Chinese military continues to benefit from government civil-military fusion policies for malign purposes.”

Chinese company Skyrizon was also added to the Military End-User list for “its capability to develop, produce, or maintain military items, such as military aircraft engines.”

“Skyrizon—a Chinese state-owned company—and its push to acquire and indigenize foreign military technologies pose a significant threat to U.S. national security and foreign policy interests,” Mr. Ross said.  “This action serves to warn the export community of Skyrizon’s significant ties to the People’s Liberation Army.”

China has claimed some 90 percent of the South China Sea as its sovereign maritime territory. Taiwan and Vietnam also claim sovereignty over sections of the region.

The Trump administration last year launched an aggressive campaign to push back against China’s claims, declaring that the waterway is free and open international waters.

Taiwan heralds visit by US ambassador to UN as China fumes

Taiwan heralds visit by US ambassador to UN as China fumes

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FILE – In this Sept. 21, 2020, file photo, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft speaks during a news conference at the U.S. State Department in Washington. According to the United States Mission to the United Nations, Craft … more >

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By HUIZHONG WU

Associated Press

Friday, January 8, 2021

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) – Taiwan said Friday it welcomed the visit of the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the closing days of the Trump administration, in a move that brought China’s renewed condemnation of Washington.

Kelly Craft will visit Taipei, the island’s capital, on Jan. 13-15, a week before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. The U.S. Mission to the United Nations said Thursday the visit would “reinforce the U.S. government’s strong and ongoing support for Taiwan’s international space.”

A spokesperson for Taiwan’s Presidential Office said Friday they “sincerely welcome” the visit and that final discussions about the trip were still underway.

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The trip is a “symbol of the solid friendship between Taiwan and the U.S, and will positively help and deepen the U.S.-Taiwan partnership,” the spokesperson said.

In announcing the trip on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was sending Craft to show “what a free China could achieve.” Taiwan’s official title is the Republic of China, the name of Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Party government that he moved to Taiwan in 1949 as Mao Zedong’s Communists swept to power on mainland China.

China continues to regard Taiwan as part of its territory to be recovered by force if necessary.

The visit is yet another move from the Trump administration to step up interactions with the island despite their lacking formal diplomatic ties since Washington switched recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979. The U.S. outreach to Taiwan has exacerbated tensions between Washington and Beijing that are already running high over the COVID-19 pandemic, trade, Hong Kong and the South China Sea.

Craft was appointed by President Donald Trump to the position in 2019, and is due to be replaced by career diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield after Biden takes office.

In defiance of China’s warnings, Congress and the Trump administration have pushed for more visits by sitting government officials, along with arms sales and political support. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar visited in August, followed the next month by Under Secretary of State Keith Krach.

China stepped up its angry rhetoric and flew fighter jets near the island in a display of force during both visits.

Heightened tensions with China present a diplomatic challenge for Biden, who is expected to maintain many of Trump’s policies toward Beijing while seeking to put relations on a more predictable, less confrontational track.

While Beijing has called for improved relations, it refuses to back down on issues such as Taiwan that it considers to be among its “core interests.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying on Friday said a “handful of anti-China politicians within the Trump administration, to be clear, such as Pompeo, have been staging a show of madness as their days at the reins are numbered, stopping at nothing to deliberately sabotage China-U.S. relations for selfish political interests.”

China will take all necessary measures to safeguard its sovereignty and security interests,” Hua told reporters at a daily briefing. “If the U.S. insists on going its own way, it will definitely pay a heavy price for its erroneous actions.”

___

Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

US sending UN envoy to Taiwan, sparking warning from China

US sending UN envoy to Taiwan, sparking warning from China

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By EDITH M. LEDERER

Associated Press

Thursday, January 7, 2021

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday he is sending U.N. Ambassador Kelly Craft to Taiwan next week to show “what a free China could achieve,” an announcement that sparked sharp criticism from Beijing and a warning that “the United States will pay a heavy price for its wrong action.”

Pompeo called Taiwan “a reliable partner and vibrant democracy that has flourished despite CCP (Chinese Communist Party) efforts to undermine its great success.”

China’s U.N. Mission said in a statement from its spokesperson that Beijing “firmly opposes” Craft’s visit. It said that “there is only one China in the world and the Taiwan region is an inalienable part of China’s territory.”

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“The United States will not succeed in its attempt to harm China’s core interests through political manipulation on the Taiwan question,” the unidentified spokesperson said. “We wish to remind the United States that whoever plays with fire will burn himself.”

American relations with democratic Taiwan have warmed, largely due to strong bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress, but the Trump administration has also been willing to defy Beijing’s threats and promote an alternative to Chinese Communist Party authoritarianism.

The U.S. outreach to Taiwan has exacerbated tensions between Washington and Beijing over the COVID-19 pandemic, trade, Hong Kong and the South China Sea.

China has been stepping up its threats to bring the self-governing island under its control by military force with frequent war games and aerial patrols. It has been using its diplomatic clout to stop Taiwan from joining any organizations that require statehood for membership.

Taiwan left the United Nations in 1971 when China joined and is excluded from all of its agencies, including the World Health Organization’s assembly, where Taiwan’s observer status has been stripped. At the same time, it has one of the most robust public health systems in the world and has won praise for its handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Trump administration has been pressing for Taiwan’s inclusion as a separate entity in international organizations like the WHO and the International Civil Aviation Organization.

The U.S. Mission to the United Nations said Thursday night that Craft will travel to Taiwan on Jan. 13-15 — less than a week before the inauguration of Joe Biden and the end of Donald Trump’s presidency — to “reinforce the U.S. government’s strong and ongoing support for Taiwan’s international space.”

Kraft will meet with senior Taiwan counterparts, members of the diplomatic community, and speak at the Institute of Diplomacy and International Affairs on Jan. 14 “on Taiwan’s impressive contributions to the global community and the importance of Taiwan’s meaningful and expanded participation in international organizations,” a mission announcement said.

Craft had lunch in September with Taiwan’s top official in New York, James K.J. Lee, director of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York, a meeting she called “historic.” The meeting came just before U.S. Undersecretary of State Keith Krach visited Taiwan in the highest-level visit by a State Department official to the island in decades and met Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and other senior officials.

Krach’s visit followed a high-profile trip in August by U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar, the highest-level U.S. Cabinet official to visit since the U.S. switched formal relations from Taiwan to China in 1979.

The U.S. has maintained unofficial ties with Taiwan since the official diplomatic break and is the island’s most important ally and provider of defense equipment.

U.S., China ‘cold war’ poses immediate test for Joe Biden

U.S., China charge toward ‘full-blown cold war’ as Beijing becomes more aggressive

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In this Sept. 24, 2015, file photo, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Vice President Joe Biden, stand for the U.S. national anthem during an arrival ceremony in Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File) more >

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By Guy Taylor

The Washington Times

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a “cold war” between communist China and the United States, with Beijing scrambling at levels previously unseen to try to undermine America’s status as the world’s leading superpower.

Although the recent emergence of coronavirus vaccines suggests the pandemic’s end may be in sight, foreign policy analysts generally agree that the expanding geopolitical battle between Washington and Beijing will only intensify in the post-COVID-19 era.

“We now have underway a full-blown cold war between the U.S. and China,” said Clifford D. May, president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington think tank known for its hawkish foreign policy positions.

SEE ALSO: Russia, China flex military muscle with joint air patrols over Pacific

“This war actually started years ago,” Mr. May said in an interview. “But America’s elites, Republican and Democrat, have been in denial about it considering how much Wall Street is invested in China and how much U.S. consumers have been accustomed to cheap goods from China often made from exploited, if not slave, labor.”

Although he credited the Trump administration with engineering a clear-eyed shift in U.S. policy toward China even before COVID-19 hit, Mr. May said the U.S. establishment has been dangerously slow to let go of false and long-held beliefs that China will liberalize its political system and moderate its behavior on the world stage as its wealth grew through ties to America and the U.S.-backed global economic order.

China hawks say that has not happened, and President-elect Joseph R. Biden faces difficult questions on whether to embrace President Trump’s hard-edged approach or seek a reversal toward the moderate and much softer posture the U.S. embraced when he was vice president.

Republicans view Mr. Biden with skepticism because of his son Hunter’s checkered history of business dealings in Beijing.

The broader uncertainty over China policy stands to shape the next administration’s approach to other global issues, including those involving North Korea and Iran. As a neighbor and ally of North Korea and a permanent, veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council, China already has influence in both of those arenas and could increase that influence given likely disruptions in the post-COVID-19 era.

China also poses major questions about how its power moves will influence the behavior of other U.S. adversaries such as Russia, which the Trump administration quietly sought to peel away from China. The administration hoped to create a strategic alignment of allies including India, Australia and Japan to present a united front in countering China.

Mr. Biden will arrive at the White House during Beijing’s accelerating push to portray itself to the world as a more organized and reliable partner than the U.S., especially to weaker nations facing the hardship of a pandemic-driven global economic downturn.

Beijing is already billing itself as a better global citizen than Washington. It touts its dedication to multilateral organizations such as the World Health Organization, the Paris climate accord and the World Trade Organization that Mr. Trump shunned while appealing for Mr. Biden to shift away from his predecessor’s “America First” policies.

The Trump administration “ignores the vast common interests and room for cooperation between the two countries and insists that China is a main threat,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a speech Friday to the New York-based Asia Society.

“This is like misaligning the buttons on clothing,” Mr. Wang said. “They get things wrong at the very beginning.”

By contrast, the Trump administration’s leading voices on China, led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, readily embrace the cold war idea and warn that Beijing could be an even more formidable adversary than the Soviet Union, which operated in a political and economic sphere largely separated from the West.

“What’s happening now isn’t Cold War 2.0. The challenge of resisting the [Chinese Communist Party] threat is in some ways worse,” Mr. Pompeo said in a September speech in the Czech Republic. China “is already enmeshed in our economies, in our politics, in our societies in ways the Soviet Union never was.”

Although the novel coronavirus originated in China, Chinese government officials have suggested that the U.S. may have been responsible for the outbreak and argued that China’s system has far outperformed the U.S. in containing COVID-19 and limiting its economic impacts.

China, with its military growing stronger by the year, is also engaged in increased regional muscle-flexing, apparently to test U.S. resolve should a clash break out over flash points such as Hong Kong, Taiwan or control of the South China Sea.

The Chinese military has “stepped up the frequency” of activities around Taiwan as well as near the many disputed reefs and islands of the South China Sea, according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

An examination by the initiative found a roughly 50% increase in Chinese military activities in the Indo-Pacific reported by Chinese state-controlled media over the past year. The study cited a similar, albeit less dramatic, increase by U.S. forces in the region.

U.S. officials predict Beijing will be emboldened to increase its military moves as it prepares to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party in July.

High stakes for China

Not everyone is convinced that the fallout from the pandemic will aid China’s emergence.

“The jury is still out as to whether COVID-19 accelerates the geopolitical transition which has been underway before,” said former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who heads the Asia Society Policy Institute.

“The variable here is U.S. policy and strategy and … whether [that] policy and strategy is sustained beyond the four-year point in terms of a long-term return to American regional and global leadership role,” Mr. Rudd told the annual GZERO Summit hosted this month by the Eurasia Group, a New York-based consulting firm.

He suggested that the Trump administration, despite its confrontational approach to Beijing, ultimately weakened America’s geopolitical standing by going it alone on China rather than pursuing a more cohesive strategy with regional allies. Many on Mr. Biden’s national security team strongly agreed with the criticism.

“The bottom line is the ball is very much now in America’s court about what it wishes to do in the region and the world,” Mr. Rudd said at the summit, which was held virtually under the title “Geopolitics in a Post-Pandemic World.”

The Trump administration’s China hawks warn that the ruling Communist Party’s ambitions are global. They say Beijing is ready to exploit the pandemic-induced global economic crisis to expand its ambitious “Belt and Road” campaign through loans to a growing number of nations in need.

China’s gross domestic product, at an estimated $13.4 trillion, is just two-thirds that of the United States. But its position as a rising powerhouse has been increasingly harder to deny since 2013, when President Xi Jinping announced the Belt and Road program.

The campaign has since grown into a vast web of deals, contracts, grants and loans. Beijing has doled out well over $100 billion in loans to more than 100 countries to finance roads, bridges, ports and rail lines.

U.S. officials accuse China of engaging in predatory lending by offering loans it knows nations will have trouble repaying, only to offer relief later in exchange for control over coveted natural resources.

Beijing sharply denies such accusations, but China has emerged over the past decade as a go-to source of loans for cash-strapped countries in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and parts of Europe. It has become an alternative capital source to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the Washington-based pillars of the liberal international economic order that the U.S. has fostered since shortly after World War II.

Criticized early in the COVID-19 crisis for failing to offer concessions to its strapped borrowers, China now seeks to portray itself as benevolently delivering generous debt relief to countries in need.

Finance Minister Liu Kun said last month that Beijing had extended debt relief worth some $2.1 billion to developing countries, but that figure is tiny compared with the mountains of debt that developing countries owe China.

A World Bank study found that the world’s poorest countries owe Beijing more than $112 billion through the Belt and Road program, raising questions of whether China overextended itself as markets and national economies struggle to recover.

Mr. Rudd said China’s reputation already has been damaged by its handling of the coronavirus in the earliest days of the crisis and by what many saw as Beijing’s hubris in trying to exploit its position as the world’s leading supplier of protective medical equipment.

China,” the former Australian prime minister said, “took a big reputational hit because the virus came from Wuhan.”

China’s attempt to use the distribution of PPE around Asia and the rest of the world as a tool of diplomacy effectively backfired,” he said, “because China insisted on statements of loyalty to the imperial throne as a precondition for the delivery of PPE. This was received negatively around the world.”

China’s nationalistic state-controlled media even raised the specter of using Beijing’s control over global pharmaceutical supply chains as leverage to block critical components for dependent U.S. drug companies and send America into a COVID-19 “hell.”

The Trump administration and lawmakers from both parties responded by calling for a revamping of domestic U.S. drug manufacturing operations that had been outsourced to China and a handful of other nations. That’s another big question awaiting Mr. Biden as he weighs what it takes to wage a Cold War with China.

Waiting on Washington

Former Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono, who also spoke at the GZERO Summit, said U.S. allies in Asia are on edge as they await how Mr. Biden approaches the post-Trump and post-COVID-19 geopolitical landscape.

“We need to be very carefully monitoring the United States’ intentions, if the U.S. is again trying to take leadership in building a coalition among the like-minded countries … to sustain democracy, a coalition to protect global rule and trying to protect the liberal international order that has brought about this economic prosperity after World War II,” said Mr. Taro, now minister for administrative and regulatory reform for Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

“Is the United States trying to re-create [the] global trade regime? Is the U.S. coming back to the WTO? Is the U.S. joining [pan-Asian Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal]? Hopefully,” Mr. Taro said.

Japan has proceeded with the Pacific Rim trade deal in absence of U.S. support over the past four years. While trade watchers try to figure out whether Mr. Biden will seek to join the Asian trade deal Mr. Trump shunned, some analysts are skeptical that the incoming president understands how dramatically the regional dynamics have changed since he was vice president just four years ago.

“I’m not yet convinced by any means that Biden himself recognizes that it’s a cold war,” Mr. May said.

Mr. May said a key wild card will be how Hunter Biden’s legal problems connected to China affect his father’s ability to alter policy with Beijing. Hunter Biden recently acknowledged that his taxes were under investigation in connection with a former Chinese tycoon now believed to be in jail facing corruption charges.

Mr. Biden has strongly defended his son, but the potentially distracting investigation is poised to proceed at least through the early months of his presidency.

“Joe Biden saw no reason why his son shouldn’t be involved with business with China,” said Mr. May, who writes a regular opinion column for The Washington Times. “Whether he recognizes now that China is a dangerous adversary, we don’t know. Whether he will take a tough policy toward China, we also don’t know.”

Mr. Rudd, meanwhile, suggested the coming four years could bring as much of a geopolitical shift as the past four. The world, he said, should not take lightly the potential for a massive policy shift by the incoming U.S. administration.

“There is a grave danger that people underestimate the capability and capacity of President-elect Biden and the team that he has assembled,” Mr. Rudd said. “This will be as formidable a foreign policy and national security team as was assembled by President Truman after the war, and the Truman administration was much underestimated by the rest of the world.”

China restricts US official travel to Hong Kong

China restricts U.S. official travel to Hong Kong

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China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying gestures during a press conference held at the Foreign Ministry in Beijing on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. China is imposing restrictions on travel to Hong Kong by some U.S. officials and others in retaliation … more >

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By

Associated Press

Thursday, December 10, 2020

BEIJING (AP) — China is imposing restrictions on travel to Hong Kong by some U.S. officials and others in retaliation for similar measures imposed on Chinese individuals by Washington, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

U.S. diplomatic passport holders visiting Hong Kong and nearby Macao will temporarily no longer receive visa-free entry privileges, spokesperson Hua Chunying said.

U.S. administration officials, congressional staffers, employees of non-governmental organizations and their immediate family members will face “reciprocal sanctions,” Hua said.

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She was apparently referring to U.S. sanctions that bar certain Chinese and Hong Kong officials from traveling to the U.S. or having dealings with the U.S. financial system over their roles in imposing a sweeping National Security Law passed this summer that ushered in a crackdown on free speech and opposition political activity in Hong Kong.

Hua said the move was taken “given that the U.S. side is using the Hong Kong issue to seriously interfere in China’s internal affairs and undermine China’s core interests.”

Those sanctioned “have performed egregiously and are primarily responsible on the Hong Kong issue,” she said at a daily briefing.

China once again urges the U.S. side to immediately stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs, stop interfering in China’s internal affairs, and not go further down the wrong and dangerous path,” Hua said.

China had long threatened to retaliate against the U.S. sanctions and other actions seen as hostile.

Earlier, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said Trump administration officials are “digging a hole” for the next U.S. administration’s relationship with China through actions targeting the country and its officials.

Steps such as restricting visas for the 92 million members of the ruling Communist Party and their families have “again exposed the sinister intentions of extreme anti-China forces in Washington to hijack China-U.S. relations for their own political gain,” Xinhua said in an editorial.

The U.S. State Department last week cut the duration of such visas from 10 years to one month, another example of the increasingly hard-line stance adopted by the administration in its waning days. That came in addition to the sanctions targeting specific Chinese and Hong Kong officials over their actions in Hong Kong, the northwestern region of Xinjiang and elsewhere.

While President-elect Joe Biden has signaled he intends to keep pressure on China, he’s also expected to seek a return to more conventional, less confrontational style of diplomacy. Rolling back Trump-era measures could be difficult however, while giving Republicans the chance to renew accusations that Biden is softening Washington’s stance toward Beijing.

“By relentlessly challenging the bottom line of China-U.S. relations on issues concerning China’s core interests, anti-China politicians are not only digging a hole for the next administration’s relationship with China, but also eying their own personal political gains,” Xinhua said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has castigated China on almost a daily basis over its policies toward Taiwan, Tibet, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and the South China Sea.

Dozens of officials from mainland China and Hong Kong have been hit with visa bans and other sanctions and new restrictions have been imposed on Chinese diplomats, journalists and academics. Chinese tech giant Huawei has been shut out of the U.S. market and the U.S. has lobbied other countries to follow suit, often successfully.

On Wednesday, Pompeo accused U.S. universities of caving to Chinese pressure to blunt or bar criticism of the the Chinese communist party, which he said was “poisoning the well of our higher education for its own ends.”

Chinese responded by vowing to impose countervailing measures against American officials, saying U.S. accusations and punitive measures only solidified the Chinese people behind their leaders.

Perhaps with an eye toward Biden, who takes office Jan. 20, Xinhua held open the possibility of better relations if Washington changed its approach.

“Today, China and the United States should also uphold the spirit of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation,” Xinhua said. “The two must focus on managing their differences, with the top priority being a smooth transition toward stronger China-U.S. relations.”

US intelligence director says China is top threat to America

US intelligence director says China is top threat to America

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By DEB RIECHMANN

Associated Press

Friday, December 4, 2020

WASHINGTON (AP) – China poses the greatest threat to America and the rest of the free world since World War II, outgoing National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe said Thursday as the Trump administration ramps up anti-Chinese rhetoric to pressure President-elect Joe Biden to be tough on Beijing.

“The intelligence is clear: Beijing intends to dominate the U.S. and the rest of the planet economically, militarily and technologically,” Ratcliffe wrote in an op-ed published Thursday in The Wall Street Journal. “Many of China’s major public initiatives and prominent companies offer only a layer of camouflage to the activities of the Chinese Communist Party.”

“I call its approach of economic espionage ‘rob, replicate and replace,’” Ratcliffe said. “China robs U.S. companies of their intellectual property, replicates the technology and then replaces the U.S. firms in the global marketplace.”

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In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying dismissed the editorial as a further move to spread “false information, political viruses and lies” in hopes of damaging China’s reputation and China-U.S. relations.

“It offered nothing new but repeated the lies and rumors aimed at smearing China and playing up the China threat by any means,” Hua said at a daily briefing on Friday. “It’s another hodgepodge of lies being produced by the relevant departments of the U.S. government for some time.”

Trump administration officials have been stepping up their anti-China rhetoric for months, especially during the presidential campaign as President Donald Trump sought to deflect blame for the spread of the coronavirus . On the campaign trail, Trump warned that Biden would go easy on China, although the president-elect agrees that China is not abiding by international trade rules, is giving unfair subsidies to Chinese companies and stealing American innovation.

The Trump administration, which once boasted of warm relations with Chinese President Xi Jinping, also has been ramping up sanctions against China over Taiwan, Tibet, trade, Hong Kong and the South China Sea. It has moved against the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei and sought restrictions on Chinese social media applications like TikTok and WeChat.

Ratcliffe, a Trump loyalist who has been accused of politicizing the position, has been the nation’s top intelligence official since May. In his op-ed, he did not directly address the transition to a Biden administration. Trump has not acknowledged losing the election.

Ratcliffe said he has shifted money within the $85 billion annual intelligence budget to address the threat from China. Beijing is preparing for an open-ended confrontation with the U.S., which must be addressed, he said.

“This is our once-in-a-generation challenge. Americans have always risen to the moment, from defeating the scourge of fascism to bringing down the Iron Curtain,” Ratcliffe wrote in what appeared to be call for action to future intelligence officials.

Biden has announced that he wants the Senate to confirm Avril Haines, a former deputy director of the CIA, to succeed Ratcliffe as the next national intelligence director.

“This generation will be judged by its response to China’s effort to reshape the world in its own image and replace America as the dominant superpower,” Ratcliffe wrote.

He cited several examples of Chinese aggression against the United States:

The Justice Department has charged a rising number of U.S. academics for transferring U.S. taxpayer-funded intellectual property to China.

He noted the theft of intellectual property from American businesses, citing the case of Sinoval, a China-based wind turbine maker, which was convicted and heavily fined for stealing trade secrets from AMSC, a U.S.-based manufacturer formerly known as American Superconductor Inc. Rather than pay AMSC for more than $800 million in products and services it had agreed to purchase, Sinovel hatched a scheme to steal AMSC’s proprietary wind turbine technology, causing the loss of almost 700 jobs and more than $1 billion in shareholder equity, according to the Justice Department.

Ratcliffe and other U.S. officials have said that China has stolen sensitive U.S. defense technology to fuel Xi’s aggressive military modernization plan and they allege that Beijing uses its access to Chinese tech firms, such as Huawei, to collect intelligence, disrupt communications and threaten the privacy of users worldwide.

Ratcliffe said he has personally briefed members of Congress about how China is using intermediaries to lawmakers in an attempt to influence legislation.

China slaps 200% tax on Australia wine amid tensions

China slaps 200% tax on Australia wine amid tensions

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In this Feb. 29, 2012, file photo a shopper looks over the wine at King & Godfree, one of Australia’s oldest licensed grocery stores in, Melbourne, Australia. China on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, began investigating whether Australia is dumping wine … more >

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By JOE McDONALD

Associated Press

Friday, November 27, 2020

BEIJING (AP) – China on Friday added wine to the growing list of Australian goods barred from its markets in a trade war against Australia over disputes including its support for a probe into the origin of the coronavirus.

The Ministry of Commerce imposed import taxes of up to 212.1%, effective Saturday, which Australia‘s trade minister said make Australian wine unsellable in China, his country’s biggest export market.

China increasingly is using its populous market as leverage to extract political concessions and increase its strategic influence.

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Earlier, China stopped or reduced imports of beef, coal, barley, seafood, sugar and timber from Australia after it supported calls for a probe into the origin of the coronavirus pandemic, which began in China in December.

China‘s ruling Communist Party is trying to deflect criticism of its handling of the outbreak, which plunged the global economy into its deepest slump since the 1930s, by arguing the virus came from abroad, despite little evidence to support that.

Meanwhile, Australia is working on a mutual defense treaty with Japan, which Chinese leaders see as a strategic rival, and has joined Washington and Southeast Asian governments in expressing concern about China‘s construction of military facilities on islands in the disputed South China Sea, a busy trade route.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman called on Australia to “do something conducive” to improve relations but gave no details.

“Some people in Australia adhering to the Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice have repeatedly taken wrong words and deeds on issues concerning China’s core interests,” said the spokesman, Zhao Lijian.

Australia should “take China’s concerns seriously, instead of harming China’s national interests under the banner of safeguarding their own national interests,” Zhao said.

Australia‘s main stock market index fell 0.5% on Friday following the news.

“To a certain extent, this is Australia’s fault for allowing itself to become a one-trick pony export-wise to China,” market analyst Jeffrey Halley of Oanda said in a report.

The Chinese market is especially important at a time when China is recovering from the coronavirus while the United States, Europe and other major economies are struggling with anti-disease controls that depress demand.

The Ministry of Commerce said the wine tariffs are in response to complaints Chinese producers were damaged by improperly low-priced Australian imports.

Australia’s government denied subsidizing wine exports.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said the accumulation of Chinese sanctions suggested they were due to “other factors” but gave no details.

“The Australian government categorically rejects any allegation that our wine producers are dumping product into China,” Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said.

Australia has imposed restrictions meant to block foreign influence in its politics following complaints Beijing might be trying to manipulate its government.

Australia also has joined the United States in imposing curbs on use of technology from Chinese telecom equipment giant Huawei Technologies Ltd. on security grounds.

US provides missiles, renews pledge to defend Philippines

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U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien speaks during the turnover ceremony of defense articles at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Pasay City, Philippines Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. (Eloisa Lopez/Pool Photo via AP) more >

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By JIM GOMEZ

Associated Press

Monday, November 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines (AP) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration provided precision-guided missiles and other weapons to help the Philippines battle Islamic State group-aligned militants and renewed a pledge to defend its treaty ally if it comes under attack in the disputed South China Sea.

National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien represented Trump in Monday’s ceremony at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila, where he announced the delivery of the missiles and bombs to the Philippine military. Trump pledged to provide the $18 million worth of missiles in a phone conversation with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in April, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said.

O’Brien expressed condolences to the Philippines after back-to-back typhoons left a trail of death and devastation in the country and outlined U.S. help to the country to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

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The U.S. assistance projects normalcy in Washington’s foreign relations as Trump works to challenge the results of the Nov. 3 presidential election, claiming he was a victim of fraud. Duterte had asked Filipino Americans to vote for Trump but congratulated Joe Biden, through his spokesperson, for winning the election.

Asked in an online news briefing if any of the officials he met in Vietnam and the Philippines voiced concern about the post-election situation in the U.S., O’Brien said nobody did. “There will be a transition if the courts don’t rule in President Trump’s favor,” he said.

O’Brien represented Trump in a recent online summit between the U.S. and leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and an expanded East Asia summit of heads of state attended by China and Russia that was also held by video and hosted by Vietnam.

In his remarks at the turnover of the U.S. missiles in Manila, O’Brien cited the Trump administration’s role in the defeat of the Islamic State group in the Middle East and last year’s killing of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in Syria, and renewed its commitment to help defeat IS-linked militants in the southern Philippines.

“President Trump is standing with President Duterte as we combat ISIS here in Southeast Asia,” O’Brien said. “This transfer underscores our strong and enduring commitment to our critical alliance.”

He expressed hope for the continuance of a key security agreement that allows American forces to train in large-scale combat exercises in the Philippines. Duterte moved to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement with the U.S. early this year but later delayed the effectivity of his decision to next year, a move welcomed by O’Brien.

He said the U.S. stands with the Philippines in its effort to protect its sovereign rights in the South China Sea. The Philippines announced last month that it would resume oil and gas explorations in or near Reed Bank, which lies off the country’s western coast and is also claimed by China.

“They belong to the Philippine people. They don’t belong to some other country that just because they may be bigger than the Philippines they can come take away and convert the resources of the Philippine people. That’s just wrong,” O’Brien said.

He repeated U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement early this year that “any armed attack on Philippine forces aircraft or public vessels in the South China Sea will trigger our mutual defense obligations.” The allies have a 69-year-old mutual defense treaty.

In July, Pompeo escalated the Trump administration’s attacks against China by declaring that Washington regards virtually all Chinese maritime claims in the disputed waterway as illegitimate. China reacted angrily by accusing the U.S. of sowing discord between Beijing and neighboring Asian states.

China congratulates Biden, but few US policy changes seen

China congratulates Biden, but few U.S. policy changes seen

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In this Sept. 16, 2018, file photo, American flags are displayed together with Chinese flags on top of a trishaw in Beijing. On Friday, Nov. 13, 2020, China has become one of the last major governments to congratulate Joe Biden … more >

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By Joe McDonald

Associated Press

Friday, November 13, 2020

BEIJING (AP) — China on Friday became one of the last major countries to congratulate U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, who is expected to make few changes to U.S. policy in conflicts with Beijing over trade, technology and security.

China, along with Russia, avoided joining the throng that congratulated Biden last weekend after he and vice presidential running mate Kamala Harris secured enough Electoral College votes to unseat President Donald Trump.

“We respect the choice of the American people,” said a foreign ministry spokesman, Wang Wenbin. “We congratulate Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris.”

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Wang gave no reason for the delay but said, “the result will be confirmed according to U.S. laws and procedures.”

U.S.-Chinese relations have plunged to their lowest level in decades amid a tariff war over Beijing’s technology ambitions and trade surplus, accusations of spying and tension over human rights, the coronavirus pandemic, Hong Kong and control of the South China Sea.

Trump labeled China a security threat and imposed export curbs and other sanctions on Chinese companies. On Thursday, he stepped up those sanctions by issuing an order that bars Americans from investing in securities issued by companies U.S. officials say are owned or controlled by the Chinese military.

Forecasters had said even if lost his re-election bid, Trump was likely to try to increase pressure on Beijing before he leaves office on Jan. 20.

Political analysts expect Biden to try to resume cooperation with Beijing on climate change, North Korea, Iran and the coronavirus. And they say Biden might pursue a more traditional, predictable policy toward China.

However, economists and political analysts expect few big changes due to widespread frustration with Beijing’s trade and human rights record and accusations of spying and technology theft.

“A tough stance on China has broad support across the U.S. political spectrum,” Louis Kuijs of Oxford Economics said in a report this week. “Biden’s own pronouncements and policy program suggest he will continue to try to maintain the U.S. technological lead and to attract manufacturing activity.”

Some forecasters suggest the change from Trump, who rejected multilateral alliances, to Biden might increase pressure on China if Washington forms a coalition with other developed countries to push for policy changes.

China has tried to recruit Germany, France, South Korea and other governments as allies against Washington but all have refused. They criticized Trump’s trade tactics of surprise tariff hikes, which also were used against allies, but echo U.S. complaints that China is violating its free-trade commitments.

Some Chinese trade experts have suggested Beijing might try to renegotiate the “Phase 1” agreement signed in January as a first step toward ending the trade war. It calls for China to increase purchases of U.S. goods in exchange for postponing further tariff hikes. But that came before the coronavirus derailed global trade, leaving China behind on meeting its commitments.

Renegotiation might fit a “more strategic, longer-term orientation” expected from a Biden administration, but he “cannot be seen to be ‘soft’ on China” after the “hard rhetoric” of the campaign, Kuijs said.

Chinese leaders were quieter during this year’s election than in the 2016 presidential race, when they favored Trump over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. They disliked her for carrying out then-President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, which included pressuring Beijing on human rights. Trump’s public image of business success resonated with the Chinese public.

Trump shook up China’s leaders by hiking tariffs on Chinese products in 2018 over complaints Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology.

The White House has lobbied allies to exclude telecom equipment giant Huawei Technologies Ltd., China’s first global tech brand, from next-generation telecom networks on security grounds. Huawei’s access to American components and technology was cut off over the past year, threatening to cripple its global sales.

Trump is trying to bar Chinese social media companies from the United States, citing fears they might gather too much personal information about Americans. The White House is pressing video service TikTok to sell its U.S. operation and is trying to block companies from dealing with WeChat, the popular Chinese message service.