Asia Pacific Focus

China intensifies military aggression around Taiwan’s borders
Asia Pacific Focus

China intensifies military aggression around Taiwan’s borders

 In recent months, China has systematically increased its military exercises in at least five different areas off the coast of Taiwan. At the same time, the People’s Liberation Army of China has reportedly intensified attack simulations on the east coast of Taiwan, which is a significant missile base for the country. Beijing has also been holding simultaneous holding military drills in the South and East China seas as well as the Bohai Sea and the Yellow Sea, amid the ongoing tensions with the United States.

Experts have suggested that Beijing is expressing its anger against the increasing presence of the United States in Taiwan by conducting its military operations close to Taiwan’s borders. Evidently, these developments have heightened military pressures on Taiwan with Taipei huddling its soldiers every day in the past two weeks. Amid China’s growing military influence, the United States has extended its support to Taipei with recent visits of senior government officials to Taiwan and large arms sales.

For decades, China has been claiming Taiwan at its territory, vowing to capture the East Asian island nation one day. While Taiwan has been enjoying de facto independence since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, this new aggression from the Chinese side has raised alarming concerns for both Taipei and Washington. For Beijing to pass a national security law in Taiwan – just like it did in Hong Kong in June 2020 – it will first have to take military control of the island nation.

Even the US is under pressure to adopt a more proactive policy to safeguard Taiwan and respond to China’ aggression. Significantly, as US-China relations continue to deteriorate, the Trump administration has stepped up its diplomatic and military support to Taiwan. The US is not only the leading arms supplier to Taiwan, but has also become Taipei’s only ally and most important friend at a time when it is facing a massive threat from the communist-led Chinese government.

After her re-election to the office in January, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has made strengthening the country’s defence strategy a top priority. As per reports, the US is planning to sell as many as seven major weapons systems including drones and cruise missiles to Taiwan to boost up the country’s military capabilities. Even though Taiwan’s military is well-equipped and well-trained, it is still far behind the Chinese forces in terms of numerical superiority and advanced technology.

New Zealand Will Not Return The Air Bubble Travel Favour To Australia Immediately
Asia Pacific Focus

New Zealand Will Not Return The Air Bubble Travel Favour To Australia Immediately

From mid of October, Australia is planning to (partially) open its air bubble facilitating smooth air passenger movement to New Zealand.  It has been officially confirmed that Scott Morrison and Jacinda Ardern have both agreed that New Zealanders can travel to New South Wales and the Northern Territory from 16 October, but that Australia will only allow New Zealand to enter two of its seven states.

Both nations have made closed borders on each other since March, due to the increase in corona virus cases.  However, Australia has specified that only those New Zealanders can travel that have not been in a designated Covid-19 hotspot in the 14 days. A hotspot is defined as having a rolling three-day average of three cases per day.

According to Australia’s deputy prime minister, Michael McCormack, with this move, they will be able to free up 325 additional places in hotel quarantine in Sydney each week. However, New Zealand does not seem to be returning the favour.  It has no intentions of allowing Australians to travel to New Zealand for now, and McCormack said that decision was “very much in prime minister [Jacinda] Ardern’s court at the moment.”

According to confirmed sourced, Ardern remains unchanged on her commitment for a Christmas time for the mutual bubble movement.

Meanwhile, National Australia Bank chief executive Ross Mc Ewan is all in favour of quick exchange of migrant workers between both countries, as both are now moving towards limited travel across the Tasman. “You can image when unemployment goes up, everyone wants to pull the borders down and stop people coming in; but we have to got to resist that massive temptation,” McEwan added.  Undeniably, both economies have thrived on the effort of skilled migrant workforce. NAB has already presented a five point plan to the government at a parliamentary committee last month, including growing infrastructure spending , streamlining construction approvals, cutting red tape, and brining tax cuts forward.

Coronavirus, is Pakistan doing better than India in managing the pandemic?
Asia Pacific Focus

Coronavirus, is Pakistan doing better than India in managing the pandemic?

After the initial difficulties, Pakistan appears to be managing well to contain the spread of the coronavirus. According to The Economist, Islamabad is even doing better than its historical enemy, India, at managing the pandemic. Whereas India’s burden is still rising by 70,000 new cases a day, Pakistan’s caseload seems to have peaked three months ago. Its daily total of new cases has remained in the mere hundreds since early August.

From the beginning of the pandemic, India registered 6,312,584 coronavirus cases and 98,708 deaths, 2,317 new cases only yesterday.According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Pakistan recorded only 6 deaths out of 694 confirmed cases against 36,468 tests in the last 24 hours. With the exception of large indoor gatherings, the country lifted social and commercial lockdown. Educational institutions have opened in a progressive manner with SOPs in place. Today Islamabad started also to lift restrictions while traveling by train and airlines. However, strict SOPs will be imposed.

The COVID-19 numbers are showing a slowdown, hit cannot be translated as the pandemic having reached a peak. Screening at the airports, obligatory masks in public places and ban on large indoor social gatherings is still imposed. Unlike India, the Pakistani government has started to implement “micro-smart lockdown” strategy, under which very small localities like buildings with multiple housing units and street level areas with more than 2 positive cases will be targeted instead of entire areas.

India’s economy has also fared far worse.The Asian Development Bank predicts that its GDP will shrink by fully 9% in the current fiscal year, compared with a contraction of 0.4% for Pakistan.In support of very small business and low-income individuals, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has enhanced the limit for housing finance and microenterprise loans to PKR 3 million from the existing PKR 1 million for borrowing from microfinance banks.A significant slowdown in the spread of Covid-19 has encouraged some local business sectors to prepare for a restart by increasing borrowing.

While India is unable to reopen due to the exponential increase in COVID infections, the hotel industry in Pakistan has increased borrowing by over 40% in the past two months. The outstanding borrowing by pharmaceutical manufacturers in August 2020 stood at PKR 73 Billion compared to PKR 61 Billion in August 2019. In the same manner, borrowing by motorcycle manufactures increased by 12.30% to reach PKR 9.35 Billion in the same period.The State Bank of Pakistan has also eased the 100% cash margin requirement for import of certain raw materials to support manufacturing and industrial sectors and to enhance their capacity to contribute to the post-COVID-19 economic recovery.

Islamabad has announced to have contained budget deficit at PKR 440 Billion or less than 1% of the size of the economy (GDP) during the first two months of the current fiscal. The total difference between expenditures and receipts was almost 12% less than the same period of the last fiscal. However, the improvement mainly due nearly 70% increase in non-tax revenue (higher petroleum levy rates).According to the Association of Pakistan Motorcycle Assemblers the 1st quarter of a higher production of two-wheelers and is expected to reach a record figure of 800.000 units by the end of the 1st quarter of the current fiscal year.

Australia gives green flag to controversial Narrabri gas field project- an environmentally threatening decision
Asia Pacific Focus

Australia gives green flag to controversial Narrabri gas field project- an environmentally threatening decision

In an environmentally challenging decision, Australian authorities have approved the controversial project of developing a major coal seam gas field. Energy firm Santos’s Narrabri Gas Project is projected to be one of the biggest project in New South Wales (NSW) and would provide up to 50% of gas demand in the Australian state. Critics however argue that drilling of wells is a major threat to region’s wildlife and natural water supplies and would lead to increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

Last week the country showcased its commitment to contentious gas-led future. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison noted that increase in gas supplies was a necessity pf country and that it would provide as a transition source between coal and renewable energy sources. Scientists have raised concerns on the plan and have argued that fossil fuels investment will provide a road-block to the country’s climate change and progress achieved in reducing the emissions.

Canberra has projected the Narrabri gas project as this year’s key project infrastructurally, and did it even before it was officially approved. The project is to be located in rural northern New South Wales’ farms and woodlands. NSW independent planning commission announced on Wednesday that it was granting A$3.6bn in a phased manner for the project.

The project development has been opposed by over 95% of the 23,000 public submissions to the commission. The project is planned to run for 25 years. The commission has called the project to be “in public interest” and “any negative impacts can be effectively mitigated with strict conditions.”

The project, if goes as planned, will lead to drilling of at least 850 coal seam gas wells on a site of 95,000 hectares on farming land, which is known to be forest habitat for koalas. As per the estimation provided by the scientists, the project will lead to 5 million tonnes of greenhouse gases emission per year. Koalas are also facing threatened extinction in NSW by 2050 owing to this project.

The decision has attracted anger and outcry from various sections of the country. The gas field project was opposed due to its threat to groundwater supplies and faced dissent from environmentalists, Aboriginals in the region and also drought-affected farmers in the region.

The project is yet to be approved by federal environmental sector. Morrison’s government is projecting the project as “low emission” energy source. Though gas technically is seen to produce emissions half of those by coal plants, the studies show that it doesn’t provide any accounts for the methane emissions that are also a part of the process. Despite public outcry and pressure, Australia has stepped back from committing to goal of net zero emissions by 2050. According to the current Paris Climate Agreement, the country’s target for 2030 is to cut emissions by 26-28% on levels of 2005.  

China switches to unmanned Equipment for LAC Readiness
Asia Pacific Focus

China switches to unmanned Equipment for LAC Readiness

China is growing its military power and it is making the news big as it releases news of its first homemade unmanned helicopter. The equipment would be focusing on high-altitude areas and has already successfully completed its maiden flight in a plateau region.

China has been developing its prowess to ready itself to claim control over the pieces of land around the South China Sea.  The US has been fatting up its naval power to outmatch Beijing for the same reason.

The unmanned helicopter will be also aiding Beijing against India. Equipped with the ability to carry a payload of 80 kilograms, the helicopter is supposed to help PLA in ‘logistics missions and armed reconnaissance’.  Developed by Aviation Industry Corp of China (AVIC), the helicopter finished its first maiden flight in a 15 minute run, during which the drone completed a series of tests.

This included climbing, hovering, rotating and other operations manoeuvres, before steadily landing,  as confirmed by an official statement by AVIC. This demonstrated the AR-500C’s general ability to fly in all types of terrain.

The toughest part for China is withstanding the harsh winter conditions at the Line of Actual Control between China and India. The latter has an army which is far more climatically adapted to the winter conditions.  However, sources have confirmed that the Indian Army has already rushed weapons, fuel, food and winter supplies to the border region. It intends to maintain combat readiness through the treacherous winter that lasts about four months.

Further, to maintain logistics support in the difficult plateau terrain, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is making use of drones, including using them to deliver food, water and medicine. Their own personnel tend to remain less prepared to handle combat in the winter conditions that goes below freezing points. The AR-500C prototype completed its first plateau flight at the Daocheng Yading Airport, which is the world’s highest civilian airport with an elevation of 4,411m.

Tensions rise between China and its Asian neighbours for Beijing’s new drills in South China sea
Asia Pacific Focus

Tensions rise between China and its Asian neighbours for Beijing’s new drills in South China sea

China has been holding regular drills in the South China Sea, which has sent a threatening message to its Asian neighbours. Though the country has not prompted any immediate indication of war but the signal it has been sending is not very far from the situation as well. Beijing through these drill has been trying to indirectly claim over its neighbouring islands, coral reefs and lagoons and is gradually expanding its reach. The contested waters of South China Sea are believed to be rich source of fish, oil and gas.

China has been holding these exercises regularly now despite objections being raised by its smaller neighbours including Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan due to Chinese military’s stubble invasive practices, including overlapping claims in the seas. The Associated Press reported that, the Maritime Safety Administration issued a pair of announcements blocking off seas around the area of the exercises running Sunday through Monday but gave no additional details.

Two weeks ago Taiwan raised call for building a global coalition against China and its military threats. Fearing the increasing use of military force by China and facing “a real possibility” of war, Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu urged all the countries to join in forming a global coalition move. Joseph Wu said that his country was “on the front-line defending democracies from being taken over by the communist China” and was in need of support from other countries. He added China “has been intensifying its military threat against Taiwan” in recent years and had increased military exercises intruding its air and naval space.

Wu said, “We have been trying very hard in the last few years to beef up our own defence capabilities and at the same time we also want to let the international community understand that Taiwan as a democracy has been threatened by China, which is an authoritarian country which is trying to expand its influence.”

Much to China’s annoyance, US assured Taiwan of its support and suggested the latter to invest in more mobile and less expensive weapons to lead a guerrilla-like war against China, if it tries to invade its territory or destroyits electronic command and control systems, protecting its sea.

Besides Taiwan, Indonesian also faced similar situation earlier this month, as its patrol ship confronted a Chinese coast guard vessel which spent almost three days in waters, which Indonesia claims to hold rights on. Chinas has been trying to make claim contested waters of South China Sea.The Philippines and Malaysia also became victim to Chinese expansive claims, while there appears to be no progress between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China over the South China Sea.

It is not the first time, China flexed its muscle at its not-so-mighty neighbours. But in a most commendable move, the Philippine president invoked before the United Nations a 2016 arbitration ruling against China that invalidated its wrongful territorial claims in the South China Sea. It was found that China considered virtually the entire South China Sea as part of its territory on historical grounds, which was contradictory to international maritime law.

Can cold Storage Food carry Covid-19 virus?
Asia Pacific Focus

Can cold Storage Food carry Covid-19 virus?

China has reported the first symptom free cases of infection from Covid-19. This is being attributed to the fact that the patients were working as cold storage workers which could have arrested the infection within their bodies and not showed any symptoms.

There is now an evident scare that possibly, there is contamination in meat, seafood and other cold storage exports. Two cases were found in Shandong province’s Qingdao city during routine testing of port workers. These have been declared as first symptom-free infections that China has reported since August 20. China had not reported any local symptomatic infections since August 15 either.

As a practice, China has been sifting its asymptomatic cases from the symptomatic ones and has been maintaining a daily tally. It then shifts the former into the latter, only when they start to show signs of the infection. There is now a growing concern over infections being carried through frozen food items and in their storage facilities as well. There is a possibility the virus is thriving and surviving in extreme temperatures.

The general unrest would also mean there is a scare over consumption of imported frozen food items. Currently, China has banned imports from plants in Ecuador, Brazil and Indonesia after it was confirmed that there was virus found on products coming from these countries. This has evidently disrupted the trade channels.

According to Chinese researchers, infection has been found on salmon to survive more than a week.  The US Food and Drug Administration has denied any evidence of the fact that Covid-19 is transmitted on food or food packaging. The mystery remains as to whether cold storage food and storage facilities could be harbinger of the virus. In New Zealand for example a worker was found to have contracted the virus. He worked in a cold storage plant in Auckland. This was after a run of 102 days. But officials said that preliminary findings from environmental testing at the plant debunked the theory that the route of transmission was through chilled surfaces on materials arriving from overseas.

China uses Simulation Video Attack to wade off American Interference in Taiwan
Asia Pacific Focus

China uses Simulation Video Attack to wade off American Interference in Taiwan

In a shocking video that was released by Chinese authorities recently, it seems the Chinese military are using it as a bullying tactic to get back the US. The video shows a simulated attack on the US Anderson Air Base in Guam and was released by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force from their Weibo account.  This marked the second day of drills near Taiwan, Chinese claimed territory.

This action is being seen as Beijing’s anger against the US decision to send the undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment Keith Krach to show American solidarity towards Taiwan.  China has been systematically moving into territories around South China Sea, claiming its control over them. Most of these territories are claimed but unoccupied.

The video was titled ‘God of War H-6K goes on the attack!’ makes use of some dramatic music to show a 2 minute simulation.  China has been sending war planes into Taiwanese airspace since last week.  In response, Taiwan has also deployed an air defense missile system to monitor China’s activities.

According to political analysts, China is sending off a message to the US to back off and not interfere in the power game that Beijing is playing. It means to tell the Americans that “any kind of conflict over regional flashpoints can lead to unpleasantness, bring into focus safe rearward positions like Guam.”

Using the US visit as an excuse, China’s defence ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang has already accused the US and Taiwan of ‘stepping up collusion, frequently causing disturbances,’ although he did not make any reference to the visit.

Guoqiang, last week, has ‘literally’ mocked the American attempt to be using smaller nations to romp up its fight against China. The minister has called the military exercise as ‘legitimate and necessary to protect its sovereignty’ but has not divulged the details of the military exercise. The US has been ramping up its naval fleet in order to respond back to the Chinese interest in doing the same. Two rigorous days of large scale Chinese drill was reported off Taiwan’s Southwest coast. China is known to using ‘bullying’ and needling tactics to get the other party to make a move in irritation. In the past, it is known to have derogatory statements over LAC in India, testing the patience of army personnel.

Japan decides to investigate Wakashio Oil Spill
Asia Pacific Focus

Japan decides to investigate Wakashio Oil Spill

Japan is trying to take responsibility of the environmental disaster that has endangered marine life in Mauritius. A Japanese bulk carrier spilled oil into the Indian Ocean in July, harming marine life near Mauritius. The Japanese authorities are now sending an accident investigation team to Mauritius to look into the cause of an oil leak, confirms the country’s transport minister Kazuyoshi Akaba.

A minimum five-member team will carry out a two-week investigation into the Panama-flagged bulk carrier Wakashio. The probe will begin after a two-week quarantine to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, according to the land, infrastructure, transport and tourism ministry.

Strangely the vehicle is a Panamanian vessel that was owned and operated by Japanese companies. This is the reason that the Japanese government has already set up a task force for the probe at the ministry’s Japan Transport Safety Board in charge of investigating transport accidents. Japan is known for its impeccable standards of integrity in doing business and trade.

The team will be led by Yuji Sato, who formerly headed the Japan Coast Guard, according to the board. The area affected by the oil spill is designated as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.

The vessel was en route to Brazil from China via Singapore and is known to be transporting around 3,800 tons of fuel oil and 200 tons of diesel. More than 1,000 tons of fuel oil has spilled from the ship since August 6, prompting the Mauritian government to declare an environmental emergency. In the strangest manner, the vessel is said to have split into two. The front section of the ship was towed to open water and sunk as instructed by local authorities. Additionally, large cracks were reported in the hull of the vessel. Bad maintenance or negligent maneuvering are both being seen as reasons for the environmental disaster.

Taiwan raises call for global collation against China’s rising military aggression
Asia Pacific Focus

Taiwan raises call for global collation against China’s rising military aggression

Fearing the increasing use of military force by China and facing “a real possibility” of war, Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu urged all the countries to join in forming a global coalition against China.

Joseph Wu said that his country was “on the front-line defending democracies from being taken over by the communist China” and was in need of support from other countries. He added China “has been intensifying its military threat against Taiwan” in recent years and had increased military exercises intruding its air and naval space.

Referring to the recent incident of over 30 Chinese military planes entering into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone, he called the incident”very threatening”.

On the front-line defending democracies from being taken over by the communist China

Joseph Wu

Wu said, “We have been trying very hard in the last few years to beef up our own defence capabilities and at the same time we also want to let the international community understand that Taiwan as a democracy has been threatened by China, which is an authoritarian country which is trying to expand its influence.”

Thursday visit of US undersecretary for economic affairs, Keith Krach, was seen as an assurance from Trump administration to help Taiwan. US envoy reached Taiwan with a team of delegates to attend a memorial service for Lee Teng-hui, the former Taiwan president, but would also be meeting Taiwanese President, probably to discuss border tensions with China. Trump had been very vocal about his stand against China, criticising the communist regime for its human rights abuses in Xinjiang, a crack down on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and military muscle flexing in the South China Sea.

Besides, earlier this week many reports surfaced stating a tentative US-Taiwan arms deal worth $7 billion. Reuters was the first reported the details of the arms package.

Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think-tank, said the arms deal between the two might include sea mines, coastal defence cruise missiles and drones which would help Taiwan in attacking the Chinese military.“These capabilities will support Taiwan’s ‘overall defence concept’ which focuses on using asymmetric conventional capabilities optimised to resist a People’s Liberation Army invasion,” Ms Glaser added.

US has been suggesting Taiwan to invest in more mobile and less expensive weapons to lead a guerrilla-like war against China, if latter tries to invade its territory or destroyits electronic command and control systems. The deal, which has been under discussion for months, is expected to come to fruition soon with increasing threat from China. Taiwan’s defence ministry stated that on Wednesday, two Chinese anti-submarine warfare aircraft flew loops in Taiwan’s air defence identification zone in an area between Taiwan’s south-western coast and Pratas, an island in the South China Sea, which is part of  Taipei.

In an editorial late on Wednesday, China-backed tabloid Global Times said Taiwan was “destroying their strategic manoeuvring ability by completely siding with the US”, and adding to the risk of a military conflict. It said country-level engagement with Taiwan was “the biggest change to the status quo” in cross-strait relations and a continuing source of tension.

China, much irked by Krach’s visit, logged “stern representations” with Washington and asked its arch rival to refrain from engaging in any official exchanges with Taiwan, which it claims to be an extended part of its territory. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said, “We urge the U.S. side to fully recognise the extreme sensitivity of the Taiwan issue. China will make a necessary response depending on how the situation develops.”

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