March 24, 2023
China and Taiwan
Taiwan’s military shelves controversial proposal amid criticism it would reinstate secret police of ‘White Terror’ era, South China Morning Post
Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense has temporarily put on hold proposed amendments to the All-Out Defense Mobilization Readiness Act, which would give the military power to mobilize active soldiers, reservists, and civilians for war with China. Under the amendments, all media organizations and online platforms would be required to cooperate with government control during the mobilization period. Critics see the proposals as giving the government a blank check for “all-out mobilization” without defining when exactly mobilization preparation should take place. Some lawmakers criticized the revision as akin to reinstating the secret police forces used to silence dissent during the “White Terror” era.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen will make unofficial stops in the U.S. on her way to visit two Central American allies, Belize and Guatemala. The Biden administration has stressed the “personal” nature of Tsai’s stops to avoid escalating tensions with China, which opposes any official state-to-state meetings between Taiwan and other countries. The trip comes as Taiwan is set to lose Honduras as a diplomatic ally, following an announcement by the Honduran president on March 14. Tsai’s stops in the U.S. have fueled speculation that she may meet with Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, although Taiwan’s Vice Foreign Minister Alexander Yui declined to confirm any such plans.
Office confirms Ma’s plan to visit China, Taipei Times
Putin and Xi Celebrate Ties Unbroken by Russia’s War in Ukraine, The New York Times
China’s No 5 official Cai Qi named President Xi Jinping’s new chief of staff, South China Morning Post
China Gets a New Premier, Foreign Policy
Following a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on March 16, President Yoon Suk-yeol announced that Japan would return to South Korea’s “white list” of countries with fast-track trade status. The decision was made in order to re-strengthen bilateral ties and bolster supply chains. Both countries had removed each other from their lists in 2019 amid the issue of South Korean forced labor during Japan’s colonial occupation, which Yoon is aiming to resolve. In addition, South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that it will fully restore GSOMIA — an intelligence-sharing pact between South Korea, Japan, and the United States.
Opposition leader indicted on corruption charges, The Korea Herald
Lee Jae-myung, leader of the Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), was indicted on March 22 on corruption charges following a year-and-a-half-long investigation. Lee will be sent to trial over his alleged role in a contentious real estate project when he was mayor of Seongnam from 2010 to 2018. Lee has denied allegations by Seoul prosecutors that he received billions of Korean won in bribes, claiming that the investigation is part of President Yoon’s “ploy to get rid of a political adversary.” Despite these charges, the DPK decided to allow Lee to keep his position as party leader.
S. Korean president to host Summit for Democracy meeting on economic growth, Yonhap News Agency
With renewed push, Kishida looks to put his own stamp on Japan’s Indo-Pacific strategy, The Japan Times
Following a summit with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 20, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida laid out his ambitious plan to promote the “free and open Indo-Pacific (FOIP)” framework. He pledged $75 billion in investments for countries in the “Global South,” including developing nations in Asia, the Pacific Islands, Africa, and Latin America. Widely perceived as a bid to counter Beijing’s growing influence in the “Global South,” the plan establishes four main pillars to the FOIP: (1) respect for sovereignty, (2) “realistic and practical cooperation” on Indo-Pacific issues, (3) increasing connectivity, and (4) expansion of security initiatives.
Ahead of the G7 summit in Hiroshima in May, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida made an unannounced trip to Kyiv and met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to reaffirm Japan’s support for Ukraine. Kishida invited Zelenskyy to participate virtually in the G7 summit and promised to supply $30 million in nonlethal equipment to Ukraine. Following his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on March 20, Kishida entered Ukraine through Poland. At the G7 summit, Kishida aims to bring light to his vision of a world without nuclear weapons amid concerns that Russia may use them against Ukraine during the war.
Japan, South Korea renew ties at Tokyo summit, Associated Press
Hot springs block Japan’s geothermal potential, The Japan Times
U.S. Intel Helped India Rout China in 2022 Border Clash: Sources, U.S. News & World Report
India was able to repel a Chinese incursion into the disputed region of Arunachal Pradesh due to unprecedented intelligence-sharing with the U.S. military, according to a source familiar with the intelligence services. The incursion, which took place in December 2022, resulted in fewer casualties than the last major border standoff in 2019, and ended in a Chinese retreat from the area. This is a strong signal that growing strategic cooperation between India and the U.S. is having a clear effect in countering the Chinese military, and the most concrete result from the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement on Geospatial Cooperation, or BECA, which the U.S. and India signed in 2020.
Sri Lanka received the first installment of a $32 billion bailout package from the International Monetary Fund. The bailout deal was approved earlier this week, on Monday, March 20, clearing the way for the crisis-stricken nation to begin reworking its $84 billion worth of public debt. That approval was given after China, Sri Lanka’s largest bilateral creditor, gave its own approval to begin restructuring Sri Lanka’s debt burden. In announcing the news, Sri Lanka’s president Ranil Wickremesinghe said the program would enable it to access up to $7 billion in overall funding. “Sri Lanka is no longer deemed bankrupt by the world,” President Wickremesinghe said.
Thailand’s King has dissolved parliament, paving the way for a general election in early May. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o–cha’s conservative, royalist party faces a strong challenge from the Pheu Thai party, led by the daughter of exiled former PM Thaksin Shinawatra. Campaigning has already begun, and while nearly every poll predicts that Pheu Thai will be the largest party, it may not be enough to take power given the enduring animosity towards the Thaksin-backed party from conservative royalists and the military.
China and Cambodia have begun their first-ever naval exercises in Cambodian waters. The drills, dubbed “China-Cambodia Golden Dragon 2023,” involve more than 3,000 personnel and 300 vehicles from both sides, and will continue until April 8. The exercise involved the Chinese navy ship Jinggangshan and two patrol boats of the Royal Cambodian Navy. Captain Xu Jinfeng, commanding officer of the Jinggangshan, said that the navigation and communication exercise were “precise, close, and smooth.” The deepening relationship between Cambodia and China has raised concern in the United States, Australia, and some of Cambodia’s Southeast Asian neighbors with claims to the South China Sea.
Chinese state company wins contract to redevelop Solomon Islands port, prompting cautious response | Solomon Islands, The Guardian
A Chinese state-owned enterprise, China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC), has won a contract to redevelop a port in Solomon Islands, renewing concerns over China’s deepening security relationship with the Pacific nation. The announcement comes a year after both countries signed a security pact, which stirred fears that the Solomons could eventually come to host an overseas Chinese military base. Although western countries have sought to deepen their engagement with Pacific Islands countries in the past year, a Solomon Islands official was cited as saying that China was the only country to submit a bid for the project.
Australia has ‘absolutely not’ committed to join US in event of war over Taiwan, Marles says, The Guardian
Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles said that Australia has “absolutely not” committed to join the U.S. in a potential future war over Taiwan, as the government defends against increasing criticism of the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal in recent days. This criticism was touched off last week by former prime minister Paul Keating, who called AUKUS “the worst deal in history” and singled out Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Marles as “seriously unwise” by joining in a U.S.-led containment strategy against China. Marles, however, stated that AUKUS was a necessary response to China’s military buildup and critical for preserving vital seaways, while allowing Australia to contribute to the stability of the region.
New Zealand’s foreign minister to visit counterpart in China, Associated Press
New Zealand bans Tik Tok from government devices, Associated Press
China-Australia relations: Chinese buyers snap up more coal as diplomatic relations thaw, South China Morning Post
Washington and Tokyo are planning to make Japanese vehicles eligible for tax credits under the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act’s electric vehicle (EV) provision. Under proposed changes, the United States would relax the rules requiring EV components to be sourced domestically, and allow key minerals provided by Japanese manufacturers, since Japanese companies play an important role in processing the critical minerals sought for EV production. Both governments have agreed that easing requirements will be mutually beneficial. The U.S. Treasury plans to hear the views of several overseas administrations and firms on the need to relax relevant EV requirements.
TikTok CEO’s Message to Washington: A Sale Won’t Solve Security Concerns, The Wall Street Journal
TikTok’s Chief Executive Shou Zi Chew said that divesting the company from its Chinese owners does not offer more security protection than a plan TikTok has already proposed. This proposed plan involves hiring an American partner, Oracle Corp., to store American users’ data and safeguard against Chinese influence over the app. Chew released the statement ahead of appearing before a House committee on Thursday, March 24, where he faced intense scrutiny over TikTok‘s connections to China and its potential to spread disinformation. Although Chew has maintained that TikTok follows tech industry standards, U.S. officials continue to call for its ban.
U.S., Taiwan Move Closer to Trade, Investment Agreement, The Wall Street Journal
Garcetti confirmed as India ambassador after 20-month fight, Associated Press News
Kamala Harris, Antony Blinken Head to Africa in a Bid to Counter China, The Wall Street Journal
peaker Kevin McCarthy to meet Taiwan’s president in US to avoid China’s ire, Financial Times
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen agreed to meet in California when she visits the United States in early April, rather than meeting in Taipei to avoid an aggressive response by China. President Tsai will visit California and New York on her way to Guatemala and Belize. As part of her trip, she will speak at the Reagan Library in southern California. Speaker McCarthy confirmed the meeting with President Tsai in the United States. but stressed that the meeting does not preclude a later trip to Taiwan. Advocates of Speaker McCarthy’s trip to Taipei say senior U.S. lawmakers should show support for Taiwan given recent Chinese aggression, while critics argue that high-profile visits provoke China without helping Taiwan.
During a U.S. Senate hearing on March 8, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified that the Chinese government could use TikTok to drive narratives that divide Americans over Taiwan issues. Other top U.S. intelligence officials, including Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, CIA Director William Burns, and National Security Agency Director Paul Nakasone, agreed at the hearing that TikTok posed a threat to U.S. national security. The hearing follows the introduction of a White House-backed legislation on March 7, which would grant the president new powers to ban TikTok and other foreign-based technologies if they pose national security threats.
To Prepare for a Pacific Island Fight, Marines Hide and Attack in California, The New York Times
New Biden Cybersecurity Strategy Assigns Responsibility to Tech Firms, The New York Times
Biden to host April state visit for South Korean leader Yoon, Associated Press News
U.S. to Expand Troop Presence in Taiwan for Training Against China Threat, The Wall Street Journal