Tag Archives: Hua Chunying

Japan’s Parliament passes legislation allowing military to fight in foreign wars

Both the Chinese government and people long have feared and accused post-WWII Japan of “remilitarization” — a revival of and return to its imperialist military aggression.

Now that Beijing has declared its sovereignty (via an Air Defense Identification Zone) over the disputed Sengaku or Diaoyu islets in the East China Sea, as well as over the South China Sea, that Chinese accusation is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. On July 16, 2015, the Japanese Parliament approved of legislation that, for the first time since the end of the Second World War, empowers the military to fight in foreign conflicts.

China-Japan ADIZsJonathan Soble reports for the New York Times, July 16, 2015, that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s party and its allies in the lower house of Parliament approved the package of 11 security-related bills after opposition lawmakers walked out in protest and as demonstrators chanted noisily outside, despite a gathering typhoon. The upper chamber, which Abe’s coalition also controls, is all but certain to endorse the legislation as well.

The legislation would allow the Japanese military, known as the Self-Defense Forces, to cooperate more closely with United States forces by providing logistical support and, in certain circumstances, armed backup in international conflicts. It complements guidelines in a bilateral agreement governing how Japanese and United States forces work together, which was signed by the two governments this year.

The vote was the culmination of months of contentious debate in a society that has long embraced pacifism to atone for wartime aggression. It was a significant victory for Abe, who has devoted his career to moving Japan beyond guilt over its militarist past and toward his vision of a “normal country” with a larger role in global affairs.

But Abe’s agenda goes against the wishes of much of the Japanese public, and his moves have generated unease across Asia, especially in countries Japan once occupied and where its troops committed atrocities. Final passage of the bills would represent a break from the strictly defensive stance maintained by the Japanese military in the decades since the war.

Critics, including a majority of Japanese constitutional specialists, say the legislation violates the country’s postwar charter, which renounces war. But the legislation is supported by the United States, which has welcomed a larger role for Tokyo in regional security as a counterweight to a more assertive China. In an address to a joint meeting of the United States Congress in April, Abe had pledged that he would enact the legislation to strengthen Japan’s already close ties to the United States.

Abe’s success pushing through the vote has political costs: Voters oppose the legislation by a ratio of roughly two to one, according to numerous surveys. The Abe government’s support ratings, which were once high, have fallen to around 40% in several polls taken this month.

Katsuya Okada, head of the largest opposition party, said before the opposition walkout, “It is a huge mistake to set aside a constitutional interpretation built up by governments for 70 years without sufficient public understanding and debate.”

Abe has presented the package as an unavoidable response to new threats facing Japan, in particular the growing military power of China. He seized on the murder of two Japanese hostages by the Islamic State militant group in January as an example of why Japan needs to loosen restrictions on its military, suggesting that the military might have rescued them if it had been free to act. “These laws are absolutely necessary because the security situation surrounding Japan is growing more severe,” he said after Thursday’s vote.

China condemned passage of the bills, describing them as a potential threat to peace in Asia and invoking Japan’s wartime aggression. Hua Chunying, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said in a statement: “We solemnly urge the Japanese side to draw hard lessons from history, stick to the path of peaceful development, respect the major security concerns of its Asian neighbors, and refrain from jeopardizing China’s sovereignty and security interests or crippling regional peace and stability.”

With opposition lawmakers boycotting the vote, the bills passed with the support of the Liberal Democratic Party, led by Abe, and its smaller coalition partner, Komeito, which control a majority of seats in the legislature’s lower house, the House of Representatives. To become law, they must still be approved by the upper chamber, but in the unlikely event that the package is rejected, the lower house can override that decision. Japanese judges are mostly unwilling to overrule the government on matters of security.

The upper house is scheduled to debate the legislation for 60 days, keeping the issue in the public eye and potentially fueling more protests.

Abe has long argued that the Constitution should be amended to remove its restrictive antiwar provisions, but changing the charter would require a national referendum that he would probably lose. For now, at least, a contested reinterpretation of the Constitution appears to be the most he can hope for.

On Wednesday night, large crowds gathered outside Parliament after the bills were approved by a committee in an emotional and chaotic session. The crowds were estimated by organizers to number some 100,000, which would make the protest the largest antigovernment demonstration in Japan since protests in 2012 against the proposed restart of nuclear power plants, a year after the nuclear accident in Fukushima.

See also:

~StMA

Advertisements

Tension between China and Vietnam-Philippines ratchets up in South China Sea

South China Sea Reuters, reports that Vietnam’s foreign ministry said that on May 4, 2014, a Chinese vessel intentionally rammed two Vietnamese ships in a part of the disputed South China Sea where Beijing has deployed a giant oil rig, sending tensions spiraling in the region. Dozens of navy and coastguard vessels from both countries are in the area.

(See the NYT‘s article on the oil rig, “In High Seas, China Moves Unilaterally.”)

Hanoi said the collisions caused considerable damage to the Vietnamese ships, injuring six people.

Tran Duy Hai, a foreign ministry official and deputy head of Vietnam’s national border committee, told a news conference in Hanoi, “On May 4, Chinese ships intentionally rammed two Vietnamese Sea Guard vessels. Chinese ships, with air support, sought to intimidate Vietnamese vessels. Water cannon was used.” Six other ships were also hit, other officials said, but not as badly.

No shots have been fired yet,” said a Vietnamese navy official, who could not be identified because he was not authorized to speak to media. “Vietnam won’t fire unless China fires first.”

Vietnam is usually careful about public comments against China, with which it had bilateral trade surpassing $50 billion in 2013. However, Hanoi has strongly condemned the operation of the drilling rig in what it says are its waters in the South China Sea, and told China’s state-run oil company CNOOC to remove it.

An oil industry official in China said the deployment of the rig owned by China’s CNOOC oil company to waters near Vietnam appeared to be a political decision rather than a commercial one. “This reflected the will of the central government and is also related to the U.S. strategy on Asia,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “It is not commercially driven. It is also not like CNOOC has set a big exploration blueprint for the region.” However, Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, a government think-tank in the southern province of Hainan, said China was unlikely to pay much heed to Vietnamese concerns. “If we stop our work there as soon as Vietnam shouts, China will not be able to achieve anything in the South China Sea,” Wu said. “We have lost a precious opportunity to drill for oil and gas in the Spratlys. Also this time we are drilling in Xisha (Paracel Islands), not Nansha (Spratlys), there is no territorial dispute there. I think China will keep moving ahead with its plan (in Xisha), no matter what Vietnam says and does.”

The Vietnam-China row comes days after U.S. President Barack Obama visited Asia to promote a strategic “pivot” toward the Asia-Pacific region and to underline his commitment to allies there, including Japan and the Philippines, both locked in territorial disputes with China.

China has not yet responded to the Vietnamese allegations of ramming, but Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said earlier on Wednesday that the deployment of the rig had nothing to do with the United States or Vietnam. “The United States has no right to complain about China’s activities within the scope of its own sovereignty,” she said.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, rejecting rival claims from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.

South China Sea

TENSIONS WITH PHILIPPINES

Tensions are also brewing in another part of the South China Sea where Beijing has demanded the Philippines release a Chinese fishing boat and its crew seized on May 6.

Chief Superintendent Noel Vargas of the Philippine National Police Maritime Group said a maritime police patrol apprehended a Chinese fishing boat around 7 a.m. on Tuesday off Half Moon Shoal in the Spratly Islands.

The boat has 11 crew and police found about 350 turtles in the vessel, some of which were already dead, a police report said, adding that a Philippine boat with crew was also seized, and found to have 70 turtles on board. Several species of sea turtles are protected under Philippine law.

Maritime police are now towing the boats to Puerto Princesa town on the island of Palawan where appropriate charges will be filed against them, Vargas said.

Chinese ministry spokeswoman Hua said the Philippines had to release the boat and the fishermen, “China’s Foreign Ministry and China’s ambassador to the Philippines have made representations to the Philippines side, demanding that it provide a rational explanation and immediately release the people and the vessel. We once again warn the Philippines not to take any provocative actions,” adding that China had “indisputable sovereignty” over the Spratly Islands.

Tran Duy Hai, the Vietnamese foreign ministry official, raised the possibility of Hanoi taking the dispute to international arbitration. “We cannot exclude any measures, including international legal action, as long as it is peaceful. We are a peace-loving nation that has experienced many wars,” he said. “If this situation goes too far, we will use all measures in line with international law to protect our territory. We have limitations, but we will stand up to any Chinese aggression.”

The Philippines has already taken its dispute with China to an international arbitration tribunal in The Hague.

See also:

~StMA

Obama admin gets tougher on China over South China Sea claims

South China SeaAfter sending China mixed signals, if not outright acquiescence, about its declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea last December, the Obama administration, stung by criticisms from U.S. allies in the Asia-Pacific region, is talking tougher against China declaring an ADIZ over the South China Sea.

Geoff Dyer reports for FT.com, Feb. 9, 2014, that the Obama administration has significantly sharpened its rhetoric about China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea over the last week amid growing pressure from allies in the region for Washington to take a firmer line.

In public statements in recent days, senior US officials placed the blame for tensions in the region solely on China and warned that the US could move more forces to the western Pacific if Beijing were to declare an ADIZ in the South China Sea.

Reportedly several Asia governments have complained privately to Washington that China is taking advantage of the U.S. preoccupation with the Middle East, to pursue its territorial claims in Asia with greater confidence.

Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC, said the Obama administration is “definitely trying to turn up the volume about China. This is as close as the Obama administration has come to saying that the nine-dash line is illegal. It is quite significant because they previously danced around the issue.” The nine-dash line is a map produced by China which appears to claim that the bulk of the South China Sea is under Chinese control.

China is involved in a series of increasingly tense territorial disputes in the East China Sea with Japan and in the South China Sea with Vietnam and the Philippines. The US, along with several other governments in the region, believes that China is pushing these claims as part of a broader strategy to exert greater control over large areas of the western Pacific.

In a statement, Evan Medeiros, the Asia director at the White House National Security Council, warned China against declaring an ADIZ for the South China Sea. “We have been very clear with the Chinese that we would see that [the establishment of a new air zone] as a provocative and destabilizing development that would result in changes in our presence and military posture in the region.”

Last week at a Congressional hearing, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Danny Russel testified that “There are growing concerns that this pattern of behavior in the South China Sea reflects incremental effort by China to assert control over the area” and that China had “created uncertainty, insecurity and instability in the region.” Russel urged China to “clarify or adjust its nine-dash line claim to bring it in accordance with the international law of the sea.”

Russel said that any claims to the seas must be based on genuine land features, rather than just rocks that can be covered at high tide. Under the UN convention on the law of the sea, a country can claim a 200km economic zone around islands. Russel also endorsed the effort by the Philippines to take its territorial dispute with China to an international court, part of its efforts to find a “peaceful, non-coercive” solution.

The problem, however, is that although the Obama administration bases some of its arguments on the UN convention on the law of the sea, the US Senate has refused to ratify the same treaty.

See also:

UPDATE (Feb. 11, 2014):

Predictably, China is bristling, characterizing the above comments by various U.S. officials as “irresponsible.”

At a press briefing on Feb. 10, 2014, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said foreign officials should reflect carefully on their stances regarding China’s legitimate rights before making such comments. ‘We hope that relevant countries and officials can stop making irresponsible comments,’ the spokeswoman said.

~StMA