Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for August 8, 2022

Newsline: Fourth ambassador dies in China within a year

Myanmar’s ambassador to China died suddenly on Sunday in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming, according to an obituary in Myanmar state media and diplomatic sources in Beijing. The obituary for Ambassador U Myo Thant Pe by Myanmar’s foreign ministry in a state newspaper on Monday did not specify his cause of death. Diplomats in Beijing and a Chinese language Myanmar media report said the cause was likely to be a heart attack. The Myanmar embassy in China did not immediately respond to a query for comment. (https://news.yahoo.com/myanmar-ambassador-china-died-sunday-035932523.html) U Myo Thant Pe was appointed ambassador to China in 2019 and stayed in his post after Myanmar’s military took power in a coup in February 2021. He was the fourth ambassador to die in China in the past year. German ambassador Jan Hecker, 54, died in September, less than two weeks into his Beijing posting. Ukraine ambassador Serhiy Kamyshev, 65, died in February. Philippines ambassador Jose Santiago “Chito” Sta. Romana, 74, died in quarantine in the eastern Chinese province of Anhui in April.

Newsline: South Korea’s top diplomat seen seeking to reassure Beijing over U.S. ties

South Korea foreign minister Park Jin is set for his first visit to China on Monday as President Yoon Suk-yeol’s government seeks to reassure Beijing about their relationship despite stronger ties with the United States and tensions over Taiwan. Park is scheduled for a three-day stay in the eastern port city of Qingdao, during which he will hold talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Seoul’s foreign ministry said. Park is the first high-level official to travel to China since Yoon took office in May. His trip comes after Beijing expressed outrage over U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last week. China claims the self-governed island as its own. Yoon faced criticism from lawmakers – some from his ruling party – for not meeting with Pelosi. Yoon, who was on vacation, held a phone call with her instead. His office said that the decision was made in consideration of national interests, and that there was no pressure from Beijing. (https://news.yahoo.com/first-visit-china-south-korean-051732340.html) Stakes are high for Park’s visit, as Seoul walks a fine line between its alliance with the United States and with China, South Korea’s top trade partner, amid their intensifying rivalry.

Newsline: Taiwan’s top diplomat says island will stand up to serious Chinese threats

China’s threat to Taiwan is “more serious than ever,” but the island will stand firm to protect its freedom and democracy — including by welcoming those who support it, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told CNN in an interview Monday. Wu’s defiant message came as China said it continued military drills around the self-governing island, after a four-day show of force following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taipei last week. “China has always been threatening Taiwan for years and it’s getting more serious in the last few years,” Wu said. “Whether Speaker Pelosi visits Taiwan or not, the Chinese military threat against Taiwan has always been there and that is the fact that we need to deal with.” “I worry that China may really launch a war against Taiwan,” he said. “But what it is doing right now is trying to scare us and the best way to deal with it (is) to show to China that we are not scared.” (https://edition.cnn.com/2022/08/08/asia/taiwan-joseph-wu-interview-china-military-drills-intl-hnk/index.html) For Wu, the threat made it even more critical that Taiwan continue to build its international relationships and show it is not afraid.

Newsline: Attacker disrupts Solomon Islands memorial service attended by U.S. senior diplomats

A Japanese sailor was attacked Monday in the Solomon Islands during a World War II memorial service that was also attended by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and U.S. Ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy. Radio New Zealand reported that the victim was part of a Japanese navy media team and that he was stabbed in the neck with a pair of scissors, receiving minor injuries. The Solomon Islands government was hosting the dawn service at Bloody Ridge as part of commemorations to mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal. Radio New Zealand spoke with medics who said the sailor would require stitches but was doing well. Bloody Ridge community chief Wesley Ramo said the suspect was from a neighboring community, was under the influence and mentally unstable. (https://news.yahoo.com/japanese-sailor-attacked-solomon-islands-060421491.html) The suspect reportedly tackled the sailor to the ground during the attack before locals and U.S. military personnel stepped in and detained him. Police then took him away and the ceremony resumed after a short break. Sherman is part of a high-profile diplomatic delegation that the the U.S. sent to the Solomons, which also includes U.S. Ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy. The trip holds a personal interest for Sherman and Kennedy, whose fathers both fought there during World War II. Kennedy on Sunday met with the children of two Solomon men who, during the war, helped rescue her father, the late President John F. Kennedy, after his boat was rammed and sunk by a Japanese destroyer. In an emotional moment, Kennedy gave the children a replica of the coconut husk that her father had used to write a message asking for help, news organization Stuff reported.

Newsline: Australia’s top diplomat calls for calm over Taiwan tensions

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong on Monday called for a cooling of tensions after Beijing accused her of “finger-pointing” in her criticism of China’s military exercises in response to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. “What is most critical at the moment is that the temperature is lowered and calm is restored when it comes to cross-strait tensions,” Wong told reporters. (https://news.yahoo.com/australia-calls-cooling-taiwan-strait-053852810.html) Wong criticized China’s launch of ballistic missiles during the ongoing air and sea drills around Taiwan, which Beijing claims as part of its territory. She also signed a joint statement with the United States and Japan on Saturday that condemned firing of missiles into Japanese exclusive economic zones and accused China of “raising tension and destabilizing the region.” The Chinese Embassy in Australia replied to the trilateral statement, saying: “It is absolutely unacceptable for the finger-pointing on China’s justified actions to safeguard state sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The embassy accused Australia of doing the bidding of the United States, which China described as the “biggest saboteur and destabilizer of peace in the Taiwan Strait and the biggest troublemaker to regional stability.” Wong declined to comment on the state of the Sino-Australian relationship following Pelosi’s visit last week. Beijing had signaled a potential reset in the relationship following the new Australian government’s election in May. Relations had plumbed new depths during the previous government’s nine years in power.

Newsline: Southeast Asia Seen Tiptoeing Through U.S.-China Taiwan Minefield

Escalating tensions between Washington and Beijing over Taiwan apparently stole the focus of last week’s meeting of Southeast Asia’s top diplomats in Cambodia. Officials from member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, meeting face to face for the first time since the pandemic, had been expected to focus on efforts to end the crisis in Myanmar and other regional issues. But attention to the forum faded as China began four days of military drills encircling Taiwan after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the self-governing island in defiance of warnings from Beijing. Tensions between the U.S. and China loomed over the meeting of top diplomats from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The major powers using the forum to take swipes at each other as the region’s foreign ministers struggled to maintain their ties with both sides. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/southeast-asia-seeks-to-tiptoe-through-u-s-china-taiwan-minefield-11659872556) Southeast Asia’s top diplomats appeared keen to avoid taking sides as Washington-Beijing spat hijacked Asean forum.