Tag Archives: Taiwan

Competing for Control of the East China Sea

China's Declared Air Defense Zone.

China’s Declared Air Defense Zone.

The Obama Administration today issued new guidelines urging US air carriers to comply with China’s demand that it be informed of any flights through its new “maritime air defense zone.” The Chinese government announced the new zone on November 23, and has sent military flights to intercept and monitor several aircraft operating in the area. Close US allies in the region, including South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan, have rejected China’s call, stating they will not honor the new zone and declaring that China’s unilateral declaration unnecessarily raises tensions in the region.

There are several theories as to what’s driving China’s move. One is that it’s the result of growing tensions between Japan and China, which to date have centered on the status of the uninhabited Senkaky/Diaoyu islands which lie inside the region. Another asserts it results from China’s fear of being “hemmed in” by US regional allies and by China’s desire (much like that of Russia during the Cold War) to maintain access to oceans and support for its blue water navy. A funny (and perhaps a bit scary) video made by Taiwanese civilians highlights the tensions.

Palestinian Statehood and the United Nations

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the United Nations General Assembly.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the United Nations General Assembly.

Blogging at the UN Dispatch, Mark Goldberg notes that the Palestinian Authority will ask the UN General Assembly to upgrade their status at the United Nations later this month. Palestine previously noted that it would push for United Nations membership, this move appears to be a more moderate (and far more realistic) course of action.

The United States and Israel are likely to be fairly isolated when they vote against Palestine’s application for non-member observer state status. It already enjoys observer status in the United Nations. Its new status would put it in the same category as the Holy See (the Vatican), which has held nonmember state status since 1964.

So why not become a full member?

There are currently 193 member states of the United Nations. According to the UN Charter, membership is “open to all other peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations.”

More practically, to become a member of the United Nations, a state’s candidacy must be approved by the General Assembly (by two-thirds vote) upon the recommendation of the Security Council.  And there’s the rub. The voting structure of the Security Council grants five countries (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) veto power over the decisions of the body. Any single permanent member the power to block decisions of the group.

This is why, for example, Taiwan has never garnered UN membership; the government of China would block any vote in the Security Council, effectively terminated Taiwan’s application.

In the case of Palestine, the United States would veto the application, ending the process. So Palestine is left with the idea of applying for non-member observer state status, which requires only the approval of the General Assembly.

Global policies is messy, isn’t it.

Five Stories You Might Have Missed

Congress finally passed a bailout package on Friday.  The bill, which promises up to $700 billion to purchase failing mortgages from banks, was quickly signed into law by President Bush.  The vice presidential debate between Senator Joe Biden and Governor Sarah Palin also garnered much attention.  But will all the focus on the outcome of the bailout and the VP debate this week, you might have missed some other important developments in the world this week.  Here are my top five:

1. We discussed the political transition in South Africa last week.  One interesting (and critically important) result: a new health minister.  The incoming heath minister, Barbara Hogan, has vowed to make fighting HIV/AIDS the ministry’s top priority.  In a country where an estimated 5.6 million people are HIV positive, and more than 1,000 die from HIV/AIDS-related illness every day, the disease touches everyone.  Hogan was a well-know critic of the Mbeki government’s HIV/AIDS policy, campaigning for improved access to medicines and a greater emphasis on education.  Hogan was a white anti-apartheid activist who spent eight years in prison for fighting for democracy and majority rule. 

2. The Bush administration notified Congress of its intention to move forward with a $6.5 billion weapons deal with Taiwan.  The deal would include some of the U.S.’s most advanced weapons systems including Patriot missiles, Apache helicopters, submarine-launched Harpoon missiles, and spare parts for F-16 fighter jets.  Taiwan feels the weapons are necessary to increase the island’s ability to defend itself.  China views the sale as a provocation.

3. In another U.S. foreign policy development, the Senate appears likely to approve a civilian nuclear energy deal between the United States and India next week.  Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is visiting with Indian government officials this weekend to hammer out the deal, which could receive approval from the Senate as early as Wednesday.  The deal represents a fundamental shift in U.S.-Indian relations.  Because India had developed nuclear weapons outside of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it was subject to intense trade-restrictions on nuclear-related technologies.  In light of the U.S. move, Europe is making a similar policy shift.

4. In Angola, the government announced a plan to attract $6 billion in new agricultural investment over the next five years.  Encouraged by high global food prices, the government of Angola hopes to diversify the country’s economy away from exclusive reliance on diamonds and oil, into new areas.   The country has already attracted two new investors, Lonrho and Chiquita, both of which hope to capitalize on the new initiative.  However, the United Nations has raised concerns over the risk of “food neo-colonialism” in the context of such efforts.

5. French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Saturday summit intended to develop a plan to prevent a European-wide credit meltdown—similar to that which seems to be developing in the United States—ended without a specific plan on action.  The summit’s outcome was undermined by competition between the German and French governments over responsibility for and the nature of a rescue package.

Five Stories You Mihgt Have Missed

The big stories in the United States this week were the landfall of hurricane Ike and the impact of the failure of Lehman Brothers investment bank.  Here are other important stories that you might have missed during the past week:

1. On Wednesday, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, announced it would cut production by 520,000 barrels per day in an attempt to keep oil prices above $100 per barrel.  The move was quickly criticized by the International Energy Agency and the White House.  The cut, OPEC’s first since December 2006, comes as oil prices have fallen to just over $100 per barrel, a decrease of more than 30% from peak prices several months ago.

2. On Saturday night, a series of bomb blasts tore through New Delhi.  The five explosions killed 25 and wounded more than 90.  An additional four explosive devices were found before they detonated.  Although no group has yet claimed responsibility, police believe that the bombings may be linked to one of India’s banned Muslim groups, such as the Students Islamic Movement or the Indian Mujahideen.

3. The longstanding political impasse in Zimbabwe appeared to be diffused last week when the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Popular Front (ZANU-PF) and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) reached a power-sharing deal.  The details of the deal have not yet been released, but both sides view the new government of national unity as a victory.  Despite the agreement, concerns over the country’s political stability and economic collapse remain.  Inflation in Zimbabwe is currently estimated to be more than 10 million percent.

4. On Thursday, the Financial Times reported that the Chinese government had used its foreign exchange reserve funds to pressure Costa Rica to sever ties with Taiwan and establish relations with Beijing. If confirmed, the move would mark the most dramatic use of China’s $1.8 trillion forex reserves as a tool of Chinese foreign policy.

5. In an interview with Charlie Gibson last week, Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin declared on Thursday that the United States would be obligated to go to war with Russia if Georgia were a member of Nato.  McCain has advocated a more aggressive stance towards Russia over the past several months, but Palin’s announcement was the first time the idea of direct confrontation between the two Cold War rivals has been specifically mentioned.

How do we “Recognize” a State?

The South Ossetia crisis continues.  Yesterday, the Russian government announced yesterday that it would recognize the two (former?) Georgian regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  Nato’s Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, condemned Russia’s move, saying it was a “direct violation of numerous UN Security Council resolutions regarding Georgia’s territorial integrity” and cautioning Russia that “Nato firmly supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia and calls on Russia to respect these principles.”
South Ossetia and Abkhazia have long demanded independence from Georgia.  But Russia’ recognition of the two has some important implications.  The 1933 Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States outlines the four fundamental criteria for statehood. According to the treaty,

The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications:
(a) a permanent population;
(b) a defined territory;
(c) government; and
(d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.

The requirement that a state have the “capacity to enter into relations with other states” has usually been interpreted as meaning a state is recognized by other states.  Unilateral recognition is not usually sufficient.  Thus, Russia’s recognition of the two regions as independent states does not necessarily make them states.  And the hesitation of other countries to follow suit suggests that further movement towards statehood may not be forthcoming.  Recognition by the United Nations has usually been used as shorthand for meeting this criterion. But some states may choose not to participate as members of the United Nations (e.g., Switzerland), while others may be excluded for political reasons (e.g., Taiwan). 

Deciding whether a state is a state or not can be surprisingly difficult.  Some states fail to meet all of the criteria, particularly if we also carry over Weber’s definition that a state “possess a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force.”  By that definition, countries like Iraq Afghanistan, and Somalia would also not qualify, despite their membership in the United Nations.

Given this difficulty, it is also difficult to get an exact count on the number of states in the world.  There are currently 192 members of the United Nations.  The United States, however, recognizes 194 (including the Vatican and Kosovo, which are not recognized by the United Nations).  Taiwan may also be added to the list.  Palestine aspires to statehood, and the Palestinian government is recognized by many countries, but is not included in the total.

Five Stories You Might Have Missed

This is the beginning of the regular feature “Five Stories You Might Have Missed.”  In it, I will briefly summarize five of the most important stories from the previous week.  Enjoy!

1.  On Sunday, President Bush agreed to begin discussions with the Iraqi government over the development of a timeline for the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.  The concession by Bush to the al-Malaki government marks a dramatic reversal of the administration policy, which had previously asserted that the development of such a timeline would constitute a victory for the terrorists.  Stay tuned for a more detailed discussion of this story tomorrow.  In the meantime, read more about it on the Financial Times website. 

2. On Friday, opposition leaders in Bulgaria began debate over a bill that would impeach President Geogi Parvanov, who stands accused of having ties to organized crime.  As one of the newest member states in the European Union, Bulgaria is under pressure to reduce corruption and mismanagement in government, or face the prospect of losing more than €600 million (approximately $950 million) in transfers from the EU.

3. The government of Taiwan announced it had ended its effort to purchase 66 F-16 fighter jets from the United States.  The deal, which had been sharply opposed by the government of China, was part of a general trend in expanding military sales to Taiwan over the past seven years.

4. Farming and automotive interests in Europe, combined with the governments of some member states, pressured European Union negotiators not to offer any additional concessions at trade talks scheduled for next week in Geneva.  The talks, designed to rekindle the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round, target reductions in agricultural subsidies and liberalizing trade in industry and services.  The talks have been stalled for more than two years, and the Geneva negotiations are widely seen as the last chance to salvage the round.  

5. In testimony before Congress on Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke commented that inflation, estimated at an annual rate of 5% in June—the highest level in the United States since 1991—was “too high” and that fighting inflation was a “top priority” for the Fed.  The primary mechanism the Fed would use to cut inflation would be an increase in the funds rate, an action that would almost certainly slow the economy, already teetering on the brink of recession.