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US plays Mongolia card against China US plays Mongolia card against China(0)

Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel toured Asia earlier this month ahead of Obama’s coming visit, and at an April 10 stop in Ulan Bator signed a “joint vision” statement with his Mongolian counterpart Dashdemberel Bat-Erdene, calling for expanding military cooperation through joint training and assistance. “A strong US-Mongolia defense relationship is important as part of the American rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region,” Hagel told a joint press conference. Bat-Erdene ruled out the possibility of hosting US forces, citing a Mongolian law that bars foreign military bases from the country. But the agreement is clearly aimed at extending US military encirclement of China. Days earlier, Hagel had lectured his hosts in Baijing over China’s establishment of an air defense zone in the East China Sea. He also made a flat warning about the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, telling reporters: “We affirmed that since [the Senkaku Islands] are under Japan’s administrative control, they fall under Article 5 of our Mutual Security Treaty.” (AFP, April 10; Time, April 8)

But Mongolia has hardly burned bridges with China, which remains the destination for 90% of its exports. As Hagel was in Ulan Bator, a pact was cemented between Shenhua Group, China’s top coal producer, for a joint venture with Mongolian partners to build a cross-border rail link to faciliate expanded exports. Shenhua Group, will own 49% of the project, with the remainder held by a consortium of Mongolian firms, including state-owned miner Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi, and the Hong Kong-listed Mongolian Mining Corporation. (Reuters, April 9)

Japanese officials handling N. Korean abductions visit Mongolia Japanese officials handling N. Korean abductions visit Mongolia(0)

Two Japanese officials handling the issue of North Korean abductions of Japanese nationals are visiting Mongolia to seek cooperation from the country in resolving the matter, a Japanese government source said Wednesday.

Hideshi Mitani, former head of the secretariat of the government’s headquarters on the abduction issue and now a special adviser to the Cabinet Office, and Shoichiro Ishikawa, Mitani’s successor at the secretariat, have been in Ulan Bator since Tuesday and are expected to meet with Mongolian government officials, according to the source.

Mongolia has played a key role in liaising between Japan and North Korea, which have no diplomatic ties due to a host of outstanding issues, the abductions in the 1970s and 1980s being chief among them.

In March, Mongolia provided a venue for the first-ever meeting between the parents of one of the abductees, Megumi Yokota, and her daughter, who lives in North Korea.

The two officials are scheduled to return to Japan on Friday.

Ishikawa became the head of the secretariat this month. As a special adviser, Mitani has been assisting the families of those abducted by North Korea.

==Kyodo

Japan, Mongolia oppose attempt to change status quo by force Japan, Mongolia oppose attempt to change status quo by force(0)

Japanese and Mongolian defense ministers agreed Thursday to oppose any attempt to change the status quo by force, in light of China’s claim to the Japan-administered islands and Russia’s annexation of Crimea, southern Ukraine, Japan’s Defense Ministry said.

Meeting in Tokyo, Itsunori Onodera said Japan is calling for diplomatic solutions to those issues, while his Mongolian counterpart Bat-Erdene Dashdemberel said changing the status quo by force is unacceptable in any situation.

China has repeatedly sent ships into Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea to assert its claim to the islands it calls the Diaoyu.

As for North Korea, Onodera expressed hope that Mongolia will play a role in Japan’s bid to resolve bilateral issues with the reclusive country as Ulan Bator has diplomatic ties with Pyongyang, the ministry said.

“Japan will be able to establish friendly relations (with North Korea) if we can solve the nuclear, missile and abduction issues in a comprehensive manner,” Onodera was quoted as saying. Japan has no diplomatic relations with North Korea.

Bat-Erdene replied that Mongolia will continue to send senior officials to North Korea.

==Kyodo

U.S., China to establish regular dialogue channel on N. Korea U.S., China to establish regular dialogue channel on N. Korea(0)

BEIJING/WASHINGTON, April 8 (Yonhap) — The United States and China have agreed to set up a high-level consultation channel to discuss North Korea and other regional security issues, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said on a landmark trip to Beijing.

The deal reflects efforts by the two top global powers to cooperate on the North Korea issue despite their rift over Beijing’s territorial stands-off with some of its neighboring countries.

North Korea was high on agenda in his meeting with Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Chang Wanquan on Tuesday (local time).

“The United States and China have a shared interest in achieving a verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,”Hagel said after the talks.

He stressed the U.S. is deeply concerned about the threat North Korea poses to the U.S. and its regional allies.

The secretary emphasized the importance of promoting a military-to-military relationship between Washington and Beijing.

As part of such an effort, he said, the two sides plan to establish a high-level Asia-Pacific Security Dialogue for consultations on regional security issues including “North Korea and the growing threat posed by its nuclear and missile programs.”

The Pentagon later said the dialogue will be held at the level of assistant secretary of defense.

The defense chiefs of the two sides, however, showed discord over territorial rows in the region.

Hagel said China has no right to unilaterally create an air defense identification zone in the East China Sea, where it is in disputes with Japan over the sovereignty of a chain of islets.

He added the U.S. will protect Japan and other treaty allies at odds with China.

In response, Chang said his country “will not take the initiative to stir up troubles” there. But he warned Beijing is always ready to take military measures against threats to its sovereignty.

Hagel is on a 10-day trip to the Asia-Pacific region, during which he also visited Japan and will travel to Mongolia later this week.

It is the first time that he has traveled to China since becoming the Pentagon chief in February last year.

<All rights reserved by Yonhap News Agency>

Hard words won’t shatter China-Australia relations Hard words won’t shatter China-Australia relations(0)

Commentators writing about Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s trip to three of our largest regional trading partners — China, Japan and South Korea — have almost all emphasised that it will be a difficult and delicate trip for the relatively new Australian leader when it comes to his visit to China and desire to advance free trade agreement negotiations.

Take Australian Ambassador to China from 2007-2011 and occasional Business Spectatorcolumnist Geoff Raby, who told us in a Bloomberg interview over the weekend that “China is the ascending power and Japan is the declining power and there’s nothing that Abbott or his values can do to change that.”

Raby continues: The Prime Minister’s willingness to criticise China means “he will be under a great deal of scrutiny about his messaging and whether he can get the balance right”. Prominent Australian National University strategist and former senior defence official Hugh White agrees. According to White, “he’s (Abbott) still going to be on probation… The challenge will be whether he can refrain from causing further offense and salve the wounds in Beijing”.

These well regarded commenters on the Sino-Australian relationship are supported by a number of other pundits, business people and even former prime ministers such as Paul Keating and Malcolm Fraser. Are they correct?

These commentators generally assume that, in economic terms, China ‘rewards’ those countries that pay it political homage, and ‘punishes’ those countries that do not. The problem with this line of argument is that while it might be true that China can sometimes use economics as a carrot and/or stick for political gain, it has hardly been successful at extracting meaningful political gains from these same countries.

In fact, the evidence suggests a tense political relationship with Beijing does not preclude a good economic relationship between China and its major economic partners.

First things first: it is true that the current government has been having a somewhat rough diplomatic relationship with Beijing.

Abbott appeared to ruffle some Chinese feathers when he called Japan “our best friend in Asia” late last year. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was rebuked by Chinese counterpart Wang Yi after Bishop warned that Beijing’s unilateral establishment of an Air Defence Identification Zone over disputed areas in the East China Sea could threaten peace and stability in the region.

In a speech in late March to the Asia Society in Melbourne, Abbott appeared to refer to the dreaded ‘d’ word (democracy) when he argued that “as liberalisation spreads from the economy into other elements of Chinese life, I am confident that Australia will be a valued friend and strategic partner… to the Chinese people and government”. In other words, the Sino-Australian relationship is hindered by the lack of political and economic reform in China.

Whether the latter sentiment is true or not is a topic for another time. The point is that the Abbott Government has been frank and fearless about its relationship with China — and on its points of disagreement. Such diplomatic boldness is normally reserved for countries such as Russia, with which Australia has no great economic relationship. But China is our biggest trading partner and the Abbott Government is committed to concluding an FTA with China as soon as possible. Has the current government shot itself in the foot?

To be sure, China has used economic coercion to intimidate smaller countries. For example, Beijing blocked shipments of Filipino bananas into its country on the basis that the fruit contained pests in the midst of a dispute in the South China Sea. It then began slowing inspections of papayas, mangoes, coconuts and pineapples from the Philippines and Chinese travel agencies were instructed to halt organising tour groups to the Philippines.

Similarly, China halted export of rare earth metals to Japan during a dispute in the East China Sea in 2010 during a diplomatic crisis involving the detaining of a Chinese fishing vessel operating in disputed waters. Other examples include Beijing’s decision to freeze FTA negotiations with Norway and the imposition of regulatory obstacles on imports of Norwegian salmon after the Oslo-based Nobel Prize Committee (which has nothing to do with Norway’s government) announced that it would award the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo.

Let’s look at some lessons from recent history.

During the first three years of Kevin Rudd’s first tenure as prime minister, the Sino-Australia political relationship reached a generational low. Yet Chinese imports of Australian iron ore continued to break records. This is preliminary evidence that China trades with Australia because it needs what we have to sell, not because Beijing likes Australia’s political policies of the day.

Could it ban Australian iron ore, or some other commodity – agricultural products into the future perhaps? Yes, it could. But the same principle applies: countries buy products from other countries because their economies need to, and there is always a significant disruption to the economy and livelihoods of citizens of that trading nation in the event of politically motivated disruption. Powerful Chinese steel mills would have something to say to their government if Australian iron ore shipments were halted.

Now consider China’s top seven trading partner countries in descending order: the US, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Germany, Australia and Malaysia. Beijing has political disputes with all of these countries that occasionally flare up.

All of these countries have hardened (not softened) their political stance vis-à-vis China over various issues over the past few years. Malaysia might be an exception in that it has a no-criticism policy towards China even though it is privately very critical of Chinese policies in the South China Sea.

But the point is that none of these countries have offered major political concessions to China when their interests are at stake, and will speak up when disagreements arise. Should Australia be different? Would it really improve our economic relationship with China?

Finally, what about an FTA with China? Would a softer diplomatic touch help the Abbott government conclude an agreement with China by the end of the year?

Perhaps, but as I argued in The Australian over the weekend, the drivers of China concluding a meaningful FTA are domestic, not external. No amount of cuddling up to China will persuade Beijing to sign something that it doesn’t believe to be in its interest.

Beijing might have offered Australia some very minor concessions that could be the basis of a watered-down FTA if Abbott made more positive noises about China in the region. But the gains for our exporters would have been slight and Australian diplomatic neutrality with regards to China will have been bought at a very low price.

Using economics as a political lever is very difficult against maritime countries tapped into the regional and global trading system, such as Australia. China has used economic coercion and intimidation against countries such as Mongolia with good effect, but Mongolia is a landlocked, developing country uncomfortably nestled between China and Russia.

Meanwhile, the unexceptional reality is that Australia will continue to pursue its interests — as will China. Sometimes they will converge, and other times not. The economic relationship between Australia and China will continue to expand if it is in the interests of both countries, and not because of diplomatic niceties or skill.

Dr John Lee is the Michael Hintze Fellow and Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Sydney, non-resident senior scholar at the Hudson Institute in Washington DC, and a Director of the Kokoda Foundation. 

Hagel, Chang air differences over disputed islands Hagel, Chang air differences over disputed islands(0)

BEIJING (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel got a rare tour Monday of China’s first aircraft carrier, becoming the first foreign visitor to go aboard the ship, according to Chinese leaders.

But in a speech planned for Tuesday, Hagel will point to cyber as an example of an area where the U.S. would like the Chinese to be more transparent, said a senior U.S. official who was not authorized to talk publicly about the speech in advance of its delivery and therefore spoke only on grounds of anonymity.

Hagel arrived in Beijing Monday after a stop in Japan, where he told reporters that China must be more open about its military buildup and better respect its neighbors — a pointed reference to Beijing’s ongoing territorial dispute with Japan and others over remote islands in the East China Sea.

The official acknowledged that the U.S. officials recently met with Chinese leaders and shared some broad information about America’s fundamental cybersecurity policies and how the U.S. approaches the challenges in cyberspace. The Chinese, however, have so far refused to reciprocate, and have rebuffed U.S. efforts to gain more clarity on China’s cyber operations.

U.S. intelligence and defense officials have long complained about the persistent, aggressive cyberattacks against U.S. government agencies and private corporations that emanate from China.

And Hagel, during unusually forceful remarks on his visit to Japan, drew a direct line between Russia’s takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea region and the ongoing territorial disputes among China, Japan and others over remote islands in the East China Sea.

Calling China a great power, he added that “with this power comes new and wider responsibilities as to how you use that power, how you employ that military power.”

U.S. officials on Monday said the tour of China’s aircraft carrier was a good first step toward building better relations with the Chinese.

“The secretary was very pleased with his visit today aboard the carrier Liaoning,” said Pentagon press secretary Adm. John Kirby. “He understands how significant it was for the PLA to grant his request for a tour, and he was impressed by the professionalism of the officers and crew. He hopes today’s visit is a harbinger for other opportunities to improve our military-to-military dialogue and transparency.”

A senior official said that Hagel and a small number of his staff spent about two hours on the ship at Yuchi Naval Base. Hagel received a briefing about the carrier, and then toured its medical facilities, living quarters, flight deck, bridge, and flight control station. He also had refreshments with junior officers in the dining area.

China spent a decade refurbishing the derelict Soviet-era carrier bought from Ukraine before commissioning it as the Liaoning in 2012. It moved to Qingdao in February 2013 and is part of a major expansion of the Chinese navy that includes sophisticated new surface ships and submarines.

The U.S. defense official said the ship is not as fast as a U.S. aircraft carrier and doesn’t carry as many aircraft. The official also said the Chinese military leaders agreed that they still have much to learn about naval aviation, and how to operate fighter jets and other aircraft off a navy ship.

Hagel earlier this year had asked to see the ship, and a few weeks ago the Chinese agreed.

Early this year the Liaoning completed sea trials in the South China Sea. The official Xinhua News Agency said the carrier tested its combat system, conducted a formation practice and “attained the anticipated objectives.”

On Dec. 5, early in the Liaoning’s trial run, one of the Chinese ships accompanying it was involved in a near collision with a U.S. Navy cruiser, the USS Cowpens, when it was operating in international waters in the South China Sea. U.S. Navy officials said the Cowpens maneuvered to avoid the collision, but it marked the two nations’ most serious sea confrontation in years.

At the time, a Chinese media report said the U.S. ship got too close to the Liaoning.

Hagel is on a 10-day trip to the Asia Pacific region and is scheduled to meet with senior Chinese leaders before traveling to Mongolia, then returning home.

Secretary Hagel Visits Chinese Aircraft Carrier Secretary Hagel Visits Chinese Aircraft Carrier(0)

QINGDAO, China, April 7, 2014 – On Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s first official visit to China, the Peoples’ Liberation Army allowed him, in response to a request made in January, to become the first foreign visitor to tour the sleek refitted Russian aircraft carrier — the PLA’s first — called Liaoning.

China is Hagel’s third stop after multiday meetings in Hawaii and Japan on his fourth trip to the Asia-Pacific region since becoming defense secretary.

After a day of meetings here tomorrow, Hagel will stop in Mongolia to meet with government and military leaders there before starting home April 10.

Liaoning is moored at Yuchi Naval Base in its home port of Qingdao in east China’s Shandong province.

“The secretary was very pleased with his visit today aboard the carrier Liaoning,” Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement.

Hagel understood the significance of the PLA’s granting of his request for the tour, Kirby added, and the secretary was impressed by the professionalism of the ship’s officers and crew.

“He hopes today’s visit is a harbinger of other opportunities to improve our military-to-military dialogue and transparency,” the press secretary said.

A defense official traveling with the secretary described the ship’s tour as lasting about two hours, beginning with a briefing about the ship, its capabilities and operating schedule conducted by the two-star strike carrier group commander and the ship’s commanding officer, Capt. Zhang Zheng.

The briefers were good, and they invited and encouraged questions, the official said. Hagel and his guest, U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus, and others on the tour all asked questions, the official added.

“The briefing lasted about 30 minutes, and then we saw medical facilities on the ship, some of the living quarters, the flight control station where they control flight operations, the pilot house, and the bridge, where they drive the ship,” the defense official said.

The secretary and his group also took a walking tour of the flight deck and saw launch stations and helicopter recovery stations as well arresting cables, “and got a briefing on how what we call in the U.S. Navy the ‘landing signals officers’ guide the aircraft in for an arrested landing on the flight deck,” the official explained.

He said the ship was extraordinarily clean, and the crew was sharp and informative.

“Every sailor at every station where Hagel [stopped] for the tour knew exactly what their job was, and how important their job was, and exactly how to explain it to the secretary,” the official said.

Hagel had a lot of give-and-take discussions with the crew throughout the tour, and talked to them just as he talks to U.S. troops when he goes out to visit them, the defense official added.

“The tour ended with a stop in the officers’ dining area, where Hagel had a chance to sit down with junior officers, have some refreshments and just talk to them,” the official said.

“We all did. I sat down at a table with two junior female officers, and everybody did the same thing.”
The crew members were very impressive and very dedicated, he observed.

“It’s a new capability they’re trying to develop, and I think they all appreciate the importance of it to the PLA, but also the difficulty of it,” the official said.

“On more than one occasion, the officers who were with us said quite frankly they know they have a long way to go in naval aviation. It is a difficult military capability to develop and to perfect, … and they expressed that they believe they can still learn much from us in terms of how to get better at it.”

The ship has three launching stations for jet aircraft, four arresting wires, a complement of about 1,500 sailors, one sixth of whom are officers, and there were 90 women in the crew, both officers and enlisted service members, the defense official said.
Liaoning has been out on sea trials almost 20 times, and officials know they still have to do more, he added.

Compared with U.S. aircraft carriers, Laioning isn’t as big or fast, and it doesn’t carry as many aircraft or as many types of aircraft, the official said, but it’s a real aircraft carrier, capable of launching and recovering jet combat aircraft.

“We asked them when they would have an operational naval air wing on the ship, and the captain said there’s no timeline for that right now,” the official said.

“They aren’t at the state where they’re declaring that sort of operational readiness.”

The defense official said the opportunity for Hagel and his group to tour the aircraft carrier today was a significant step in China’s attempts to be transparent and open.

“I would say that as this trip to Beijing begins for the secretary, today was a good first step in terms of trying to develop more openness and transparency,” the defense official said.

Obama visit chance to showcase robust alliance: Kishida Obama visit chance to showcase robust alliance: Kishida(0)

Japan wants to make U.S. President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit an opportunity to show the robust Japan-U.S. alliance to the world, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Sunday.

In a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in Tokyo, Kishida said he is looking forward to Obama’s visit, a Foreign Ministry official said.

On Friday, the government said it will host Obama on April 24 and 25 as a state guest. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to hold the summit with Obama on April 24.

On Sunday, Kishida told Hagel that Japan hopes to “maintain and reinforce the deterrence of the Japan-U.S. alliance” by advancing work on reviewing the bilateral defense cooperation guidelines by the end of the year.

Hagel repeated America’s commitment to defend the Senkaku Islands, a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea administered by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan, under the Japan-U.S. security treaty, according to the official.

Referring to the resumption of negotiations between Japan and North Korea, Kishida said that despite a wide gap in their positions on the abduction issue involving Japanese kidnapped in the 1970s and 1980s, Tokyo will continue to hold talks with persistence.

The minister thanked Washington for its understanding and cooperation on the abduction issue.

To increase regional stability, Kishida and Hagel agreed to cooperate on strengthening relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the official said.

After hosting a meeting of U.S. and ASEAN defense ministers in Hawaii, Hagel is on a three-nation Asia tour that will also take him to China and Mongolia.

Hagel to tour China’s new aircraft carrier Hagel to tour China’s new aircraft carrier(0)

TOKYO (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is expected to get a rare tour Monday of China’s first aircraft carrier, becoming the first foreign visitor to go aboard the ship.

A senior defense official said Hagel requested the visit, which comes a day after he told reporters that China must better respect its neighbors — a pointed allusion to Beijing’s ongoing territorial dispute with Japan and others over remote islands in the East China Sea. He also has continued to urge Beijing to be more transparent about its expanding military.

China spent a decade refurbishing the derelict Soviet-era carrier bought from Ukraine before commissioning it as the Liaoning in 2012. It moved to Qingdao in February 2013 and is part of a major expansion of the Chinese navy that includes sophisticated new surface ships and submarines.

Early this year the Liaoning completed sea trials in the South China Sea. The official Xinhua News Agency said the carrier tested its combat system, conducted a formation practice and “attained the anticipated objectives.”

On Dec. 5, early in the Liaoning’s trial run, one of the Chinese ships accompanying it was involved in a near collision with a U.S. Navy cruiser, the USS Cowpens, when it was operating in international waters in the South China Sea. U.S. Navy officials said the Cowpens maneuvered to avoid the collision, but it marked the two nations’ most serious sea confrontation in years.

At the time, a Chinese media report said the U.S. ship got too close to the Liaoning.

Hagel is on a 10-day trip to the Asia Pacific region and was leaving Japan Monday to travel to China. He is scheduled to meet with senior Chinese leaders before traveling to Mongolia, then returning home.

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