Taiwan was given the U.S. official initiation on Wednesday (Jan. 20) for the first time since President Jimmy Carter cut off political ties with Taiwan in 1979. Taiwan’s envoy to the United States Hsiao Bi-Khim attended President-elect Joe Biden’s inaugural ceremony at the Capitol Hill.
At 11 a.m., just ere Biden’s swearing-in ceremony, Hsiao posted a tweet in which she expressed it was an honor to represent Taiwan at President Biden and Vice President Harris‘s inaugural ceremony.
She also uploaded a video on her official Twitter handle expressing, “I’m extremely honored to be here today on behalf of the government of Taiwan”. She added that “Democracy is our common language and freedom is our common goal. I am looking forward to working with the Biden Administration and improving our common values and interests.”
The preventive protocols enforced amid the Wuhan Covid pandemic may have helped Hsiao’s historic participation. This year, administrators were not given countless invites, rather were just allowed to bring their spouse or family and friend.
At first, it seemed that Taiwan would not have a presence, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) stating that it would be hard for the nation to be represented this year due to the strict limitations put on participation.
However, on Wednesday, MOFA gave a public statement expressing that Hsiao has accepted an official invitation from the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies and represents the Taiwanese government in Washington DC.
The Taiwanese Ministry acknowledged that this was the first time that a Taiwanese delegate had been officially having received an invite. The event shows a solid and friendly relation between Taiwan and the US which is based on shared common values.
Taiwan government promised that in the future, the administration will continue to strengthen economic and bilateral ties at all levels and in various sectors with the new US administration “on the current solid foundation, and will further work on deepening the Taiwan-US partnership.”
Development Projects: Sri Lanka terminated two multimillion dollar development and infrastructure projects funded by Japan. The move is likely to impact ties between the two nations as it was the second time Sri Lanka’s year-old government, headed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, withdrew from an agreement. The two ambitious development projects included construction of an elevated commuter railway through Colombo and the development of a container terminal in the Colombo Port.
In a recent interview, a senior Sri Lankan diplomat told Nikkei Asia that the country would lose the support of its allies if Rajapaksa’s ultranationalist government continued to take it for granted. “The last government was ham-handed in the way it handled the Chinese projects and now we face a similar situation with Japan,” He emphasised that Japan has been assisting the country in various infrastructure and development projects for decades. He added, “Japan’s development assistance to Sri Lanka made over the years has been without any strategic or political pressure.”
Both the Light Rail Transit (LTR) and Eastern Container Terminal (ECT) projects were signed by the previous coalition government, headed by former President Maithripala Sirisena, whom Rajapaksa defeated in November 2019. LTR was launched to provide a fast, modern, and convenient commuting option for an otherwise traffic-clogged route while ECT focused on resolving the congestion issue around Colombo Port.
Critics slammed Sri Lankan government’s move as a whimsical one which lacked logical explanation. Rajapaksa’s regime justified the termination move as a thoughtful action taken to end foreign loans for infrastructure projects. The authorities said that they wanted to encourage investment-led public-private partnerships, as the country was already battling high debt dependency on foreign funds due to its development projects.
Industry observers challenged government’s reason for pulling the plug on two major deals, highlighting the findings of Verite, a Colombo-based think tank, which revealed that Japan offered the most favourable terms of loans for both infrastructure projects, as compared to other lenders including China, India and Asian Development Bank. In its comparative analysis, Verite showed that on an average Sri Lanka received loans with an interest rate of 0.7%, coupled with 10 years grace period and 34 years maturity period. It added that China offered loans with interest rate of 3.3% and 18 years maturity. But for LRT Japan went a step further and offered a loan of $1.8 billion at concessional rate with 0.1% interest and 12-year grace period along with 40 years maturity period.
With regard to the government’s arbitrary decision, a senior Indian analyst said, “If you want to cancel the LRT you have to make a statement of intent, rather than doing it in an arbitrary manner and creating an international crisis. The talk in the corridors of business is the government is scuttling the LRT to give it to the Chinese.”
Opposition politicians also criticised the government for its mistreatment towards the country’s longtime supporter. “The real cost is not financial but diplomatic,” opposition lawmaker Harsha de Silva told Nikkei. The government is certainly not strengthening the friendship with Japan who has been there for Sri Lanka over the year
South Korea & Japan scramble jets: Russian and Chinese bombers carried out a joint patrol mission on Tuesday over the Pacific, as an exhibit of their growing military alliance, and this sent a panic alarm in the region. Japan and South Korea then dispatched their jets to track the bombers as a precautionary measure.
Russian military released the information of its pair of Tu-95 strategic bombers and four of Beijing’s H-6K bombers to have flown over the western Pacific’s Sea of Japan and East China Sea.
Japan scrambled its fighter jets to track the bombers which had flown over the conflicted islands of Takeshima/ Dokdo. The islands located in the Sea of Japan are under administration of South Korea, but claimed also by Japan. The Beijing and Moscow authorized bombers had also flown over the Tsushima Strait that separates Japan from the southernmost part of Korean peninsula. Furthermore, the bombers also flew near southern island of Okinawa where thousands of US troops are present.
South Korea too scrambled its jets after the bombers. The Yonhap news agency said it was “in preparation for accidental situations after they entered the country’s air defense identification zone.”
South Korean foreign ministry and military have said to have contacted Russian and Chinese counterparts over the concerns raised by aforesaid incident.
Defence ministry of Russia has said that the joint mission with China was aimed to “develop and deepen the comprehensive Russia-China partnership, further increase the level of cooperation between the two militaries, expand their ability for joint action and strengthen strategic stability.” The ministry noted that patrol was not intended against any third country.
This mission has been the second such patrol mission over the same area since July 2019.
It must be noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin had noted back in October that a future alliance between Moscow and Beijing can’t be ruled out. Putin had also said that Russia has been sharing military technologies with China, hinting at strengthened military alliance between the countries. This is specifically critical amid growing rift between the nations and US.
Japan’s shrinking birth rate: It has been a topic of concern for the country for past some years, especially worrying the country’s defence forces as it has been missing its recruitment targets by a significant margin. For the past six years, the three wings of its Self-Defence Forces – ground, water and air units have been unable to reach their cadet recruitment targets. In the year 2018, the SDF as met only 70% of its annual defence recruitment target whereas in 2019, the Maritime SDF and Air SDF could reach only 90%
of its target and missed on the 10%. With each passing the gap has been increasing and raising worries for Japan’s defence ministry about its deterrence capabilities.
With the drop in recruitment target, comes another challenge of managing its fiscal budget dedicated towards the national defence. Japan’s defense spending reached its highest at 5.313 trillion yen on an initial basis in fiscal 2020, and the country became the world’s ninth biggest defense spender, as per data put out by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Amidst the distressing prospects of the country’s defence force count, the Liberal Democratic Party’s national defense parliamentary group urged Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi to permit the addition of two Aegis destroyers to the Maritime Self-Defense Force, to strengthen its presence, especially in the South China Sea, where China has been gradually increasing its military influence. But the challenge is only doubling for Tokyo given North Korea’s increasing nuclear missile threats.
Japan needs the Aegis destroyers, but what it needs more is the force to operate it and secure its border – land, air, and water. Japan’s combined ground, maritime and air forces amount to 220,000 members. Which is far less when compared to its rivals in the region – with 2.04 million Chinese troops, 1.28 million North Korean defence forces and about 625,000 armed personnel of South Korea. Though Japan’s receives military support from US, which positions its 1.3 million-strong military troops to guard the country’s fences. But this borrowed defence come at a greater price which Japan cannot easily sustain for long.
Despite the Ministry of Defense having about 50 regional cooperation headquarters across the country for its recruitment drives to let in high school students, every year it struggles with fewer applicants due to fewer high school students, which is due its shrinking birthrate. “It is important to secure the [targeted] number of recruits,” a Defense Ministry recruitment official said, “but we cannot substantially lower the criteria for admission. It is difficult to secure both quality and quantity.”
Now the country has been looking into recruiting more women in its defence services as an option to meet its targets. In March, for the first time ground SDF recruited a woman to its paratroop unit. In case of an emergency, these paratroopers would be parachuted near the front line. Meanwhile, earlier this year the Maritime SDF added five women to its submarine crew for the first time. SDF is also making significant budget changes to make more room for female cadets. In its budget proposal for fiscal 2021, the Defense Ministry has allocated 5 billion yen ($48 million) to alter the working environment make its more congenial for female SDF members
Japan and South Korea: After a long time on Nov 13, a group of South Korean legislators met Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in the midst of growing hopes for advancement in ties between the two countries tattered over trade and historical issues.
Seven individuals from the Korea-Japan Parliamentarians’ Union came to Tokyo for a three-day visit on Thursday, gave a courtesy call on the new Japanese pioneer. This was the first time that Suga met South Korean lawmakers since he took office as the new PM in September.
Japan and South Korea have conflicted over Tokyo’s export checks a year ago that is viewed as a political reprisal for Korean Supreme Court decisions in 2018 that mandated Japanese firms to remunerate South Koreans casualties of wartime forced labor. Japan controlled the Korean Peninsula between 1910-1945.
The two nations continue to be profoundly divided over many historical issues, these member groups play a significant role in mending bilateral relationship for their respective regimes.
On Thursday, the officials had a one-on-one meeting with the Japanese partners and discussed ways to boost cooperation and trades between the two nations. The lawmakers consented to frame a special panel devoted to bilateral relations for the Tokyo Olympic Games, which have been deferred to 2021 because of the pandemic.
The affiliation negotiation between the two governments takes into consideration more adaptable and open trades contrasted with those that happen in summits between Japan and South Korea. The meetings permit the two sides to pass on unofficial information from their administrators too.
In 2018, the relations between Japan and South Korea dropped to rock bottom when South Korea’s Supreme Court ruled Japanese firms to compensate South Koreans and their family members that were forced to work during World War II.
The bilateral relations between the two nations have been hampered by disputes and the emergence of the pandemic as well. The December meeting had been viewed as a route for the three heads to talk about these different issues vis-à-vis.
The Korean affiliation was driven by recently appointed leader Kim Jin-Pyo. Kim stated regretted that the historical problems endured and that there was an adverse economic effect.
While there was no forward leap on the historical issues, the two sides consented to collaborate toward the Tokyo Olympics, set for 2021, and also to proceed with their discourse.
“We will work collectively with Japan to secure democracy, universal principles, and values of international law,” Moon stated. “I hope the bilateral partnership to uphold human rights would operate as a ‘bridge of friendship’ between South Korea and Japan.”
The largest trade agreement: The free agreement in history has been signed in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi. We are talking about Asia, and yes above all, about China. In fact, Beijing brings home an unprecedented result: a commercial alliance with the nearby “Asian tigers” and with Australia and Japan, long ago in the US orbit created by Obama thanks to the TPP, later abandoned by Trump. An abandonment that left the Land of the Rising Sun orphan of its major commercial partner and which therefore forced him to turn to the second on the list, namely China, with which, however, he had not yet signed any commercial agreement.
And in addition to the unpublished agreements on duties, eCommerce, and intellectual property, what stands out most of all is precisely this newfound multilateralism in a region, that of Asia-Pacific, which has always been studded with differences and frictions. Thanks to the RCP, and to the end of America first, Beijing proves that it can become the new epicenter of multilateralism, by signing an agreement of historic significance. For the first time, three of the top four Asian economies – China, Japan, South Korea – will be part of the same free trade agreement.
For some time, China has been trying to establish itself in the Asian region as a champion of multilateralism. And not just in Asia; we think of the new Silk Road, of investments in Africa, of those in European ports and commercial hubs, Italy in the lead. The RCEP is nothing more than a – great – complement to a party strategy that starts from far away. In addition to its immense commercial grade, the agreement has a significant political value.
In the competition with the United States for world supremacy, Beijing has patiently and determinedly pursued its diplomacy, and it has built, for now only on paper, an influence block which represents 30% of global GDP and which, nevertheless, welcomes Washington’s old allies. However, it is a success for the whole area. From Japan, which manages to defuse the ongoing trade war between China and Australia, to then move on to the same ASEAN area, which expects to benefit widely from the reduction in tariffs.
Even with India absent, the numbers of the agreement are impressive. We are talking about an area that, as we have seen, produces almost a third of world GDP and hosts 2.7 billion people. It includes all ten ASEAN countries, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, plus China, Australia, South Korea, Japan, and New Zealand. Observers estimate that it will strengthen economic ties within the region and add about $ 200 billion a year to the global economy. In terms of the GDP of the signatory countries, it will also have a greater weight than NAFTA in North America and the European Union itself. The result for Asia will be the strengthening of regional supply chains. An aspect on which Beijing is increasingly aiming to reduce Asian dependence on the United States.
The focal point of the agreement reached is the commitment to progressively reduce duties by up to 90% on goods in circulation over 20 years – to 65% in the short term. That means goodbye to the many bilateral agreements in Asia that limited the circulation of goods and caused costs to rise. Thanks to the RCEP, it will no longer be necessary to conclude specific agreements between two states each time to remove duties on traded goods. From now on, a member country of the RCEP producer will be able to trade freely with all the other 14 nations of the agreement. According to analysts’ estimates, 86% of Japanese industrial exports to China and 92% of exports to South Korea will benefit from the cancellation of existing tariffs.
The most important novelty is represented by the “rules of origin,” as the rules officially define the origin of a finished product. Today, a product made in Thailand that contains New Zealand parts, for example, could be subject to duties in some Asian states. Under the RCEP, on the other hand, the components of any member country would be treated in the same way, giving companies in the area an incentive to seek suppliers within the commercial region.
Australia Japan to reinforce defense ties: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison visits Japan to hold a meeting with his Japanese ally, Yoshihide Suga, to reinforce defense ties between the two US partners to counter China’s growing economy and its developing confidence in the Asia-Pacific region.
The two nations are near to conclude a Reciprocal Access Agreement, a lawful system to permit their soldiers to visit each other’s nations and conduct joint training and exercises. Morrison and Suga going to conclude the agreement on Tuesday.
They are additionally expected to talk about the worsening Covid situation and the declining economy, Japanese authorities announced.
Whenever marked, it will be Japan’s first such deal since the 1960 status of forces deal with the United States, which set bases for around 50,000 American soldiers to work in and around Japan under the Japan-US security agreement.
Japan is dedicated towards maintaining and deepening its 60-year-old partnership with the US. As the foundation of Japanese discretion and security, however, has as of late tried to supplement its regional defense by venturing up cooperation with others, particularly Australia, in China’s developing sea activity that has spread from the East and South China oceans.
Bach and Morrison are in Tokyo this week and utilized the opportunity to discuss adjacent to IOC member and Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) President John Coates about the Olympics.
Japan clings to self-defense and boycotts first strikes under its postwar pacifist ideology, however, has supported its defense capacity and spending under the former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe.
Abe pushed Japan’s military weapons and cooperation agreement with the US as it progressively works alongside US troops and reinforced buying of expensive stealth fighters and various weapons from the USA.
Suga, who took charge of Japan in mid-September following Abe’s resignation because of medical reasons, is continuing on his predecessor’s strategic and security policies.
Japan regards Australia as a semi-partner and the two nations for the first time consented to a defense agreement in 2007.
The two nations conceded to the sharing of military supplies in 2013, extending it in 2017 to include weapons after Japan eased limitations on arms supply transfers.
Japan has started the Free and Open Indo-Pacific” vision of financial and security collaboration as a counter to China’s impact, and as of late facilitated foreign ministerial discussions among the nations known as the Quad that additionally incorporates Australia, the US, and India.
They presently to bring in more nations in Southeast Asia and beyond that share matters related to China’s expanding assertiveness in the region.
China denies violating any international laws in its actions in the regional sea and has condemned the Quad as a NATO in Asia against China.
Japan and Australia both have reported economic challenges with Beijing and various sanctions being placed on many products.
On Wednesday China’s National People’s Congress proposed a new law allowing attacks on foreign vessels in its waters, in order to curb illegal activities and invasion. Observers believe that the new draft legislation would heat up things between China and Japan as China has claimed its territorial right over contested Japan-administered Senkaku islands.
Chinese coast guard ships have been stationed near the Senkakus islands in the East China Sea for the longest time. The new Chinese legislation, which is believed to get go-ahead in December, would give more freedom to Chinese coast guards as compared to their Japanese counterparts in terms of striking against the rival forces.
Tokyo strongly objected to China’s rampant military expansion in South and East China Sea. On Monday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, during a press conference, said, “We take the repeated entry into the contiguous zone and intrusions into Japanese territorial waters very seriously, and have issued warnings through our coast guard ships as well as made strong protests through diplomatic channels.”
“We will remain vigilant and, coordinating among the relevant ministries, continue to gather information and maintain surveillance over the Senkaku Islands in order to protect our territory,” the top government spokesman added.
Chinese government has been trying to integrate its coast guards with its naval forces and the new legislation would allow the coast guard vessels to attack any foreign vessels with shipborne or airborne weapons. It would also give them liberty to undertake other measures, including detention and towing, in the name of saving its exclusive economic zones, artificial islands and its sovereignty of Chinese waters.
Of late, China has aggressively doubled its naval presence in a year’s time as compared to Japanese patrolling ships. Reports have confirmed that China has deployed 10,000-ton-plus ships equipped with 76-millimeter guns — becoming the country with the world’s largest fleet of coast guard vessels.
Analysts believed that it was China’s response to Japan’s efforts towards shoring up support from other regionals powers to build a united front against China, through defense and trade deals. Last month Japan entered strategic trade and defense agreements with Vietnam and Indonesia.