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South China Sea & Taiwan Risk and Advisory 03/24


Here is a brief review of developments in South China Sea and Taiwan with outline trajectory, risks and impact ahead.


Diplomacy


US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that he discussed China's "dangerous actions" in the South China Sea, including against routine Philippine maintenance operations, and maritime operations near the Second Thomas Shoal, adding that US defence commitments to the Philippines remain "ironclad," during his visit to Beijing and meeting with the Chinese President Xi Jinping amongst others.


Meanwhile Anthony Carty Professor, Peking University claimed that archived French documents showed that the Parasol Islands belongs to China. “When the French foreign minister Aristide Briand decided to seize the Parasol Islands in 1931, he consulted with a very distinguished French jurist Jules Basdevant who said that on the basis of arbitrations over territory, the Parasol islands belonged to China,” he said.


Military


The Philippines protested China’s ‘dangerous manoeuvres’ 20 times this year as tensions escalate over the disputed shoal.  The Philippines summoned a Chinese diplomat, accusing Beijing of “harassment” and “dangerous manoeuvres” after its use of water cannon against two Philippine vessels during a patrol in the South China Sea. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs called in China’s deputy chief of mission Zhou Zhiyong on April 04, two days after the incident at a disputed shoal that left a Philippine coastguard vessel and another government boat damaged. 


Risks and Impact

 

Tensions between the Philippines and China over outlying island territories and maintenance of bases at these are continuing. The Philippines protested China’s ‘dangerous manoeuvres’ 20 times this year as tensions escalate over the disputed shoal.  It has made 153 complaints over the past two years. There is q scope of an accidental escalation which will have dangerous portends for the region even as China is continuing to aggressively resist Philippines maintenance of sovereignty over islands claimed by Beijing.

 

Taiwan Risk and Advisory 03/24


Diplomacy

 

At a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on April 26 Chinese President Xi is said to have become particularly animated about Taiwan, accusing the US of interfering in Chinese affairs and encouraging pro-independence sentiment on the island.


In his public remarks, Xi told Blinken: “The two countries should help each other succeed rather than hurt each other, seek common ground and reserve differences rather than engage in vicious competition.” Earlier, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, had warned of a “downward spiral” in relations if the US stepped on Chinese “red lines”.


After the visit, US officials said they hoped that similar warnings from European countries – for example when Xi visits Paris early next month – would lead Beijing to recalibrate its interests.


China  resented the US Congress passing a supplemental spending bill with billions of dollars in military aid to Taiwan. China hinted that it could retaliate after U.S. President Joe Biden signed into law legislation to boost Taiwan's defences and seeks to get TikTok's Chinese owner to divest from the social media platform.


The U.S. and Taiwan are set to commence another round of negotiations for their ’21st Century’ trade agreement in Taipei starting on April 29


Conventional

 

Taiwan reported heightened Chinese military presence near the island on April 27, as 12 aircraft breached the sensitive median line of the Taiwan Strait. This development occurred following the conclusion of US secretary of state Antony Blinken's visit to China. 22 Chinese military aircraft, including Su30 fighters, of which 12 had crossed the median line to Taiwan's north and centre.   


Taiwan is on alert for China to carry out military exercises after the inauguration of President-elect Lai Ching-te this month, the island's top security official said, adding China has already begun using unusual new tactics.


Risks and Impact


US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s interaction with Chinese President Xi Jinping is said to have taken up most of the time by mutual airing of grievances. Thus the visit seems to be significant only from the point of view that it took place and not that anything substantial is expected to come out of the same.


Extensive Chinese military activity is expected in the Taiwan straits at least up to May 20th or later given that is the date for inauguration of the newly elected president Lai Ching-te  Lai is a strong proponent of a democratic Taiwan which is resented by Beijing for obvious reasons. Attempts by China to coerce the new President and his team are expected to intensify.

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