Chinese Pressure Cooker: East China Sea Activity, Double Standards, Internal Security Threats
- Japan’s ministry of defense posted their account (with maps) of Chinese aircraft operating in the East China Sea over the last two years. Japan has been scrambling jets sometimes several times a day in response, though in fairness, there was just a single episode of China intruding on Japanese airspace, above the contested Senkaku Islands.
- Japan will create a 3,000 naval infantry corps likely based on the southern island of Kyushu.
- Chinese state media is pressuring the Japanese government about plutonium stockpiles reportedly about to be sent back to the US, pending an agreement at the forthcoming Nuclear Security Summit. This, from the prime instigator of nuclear proliferation (US Congressional Research Service PDF backgrounder). What’s the compound ideogram for “deliberate lack of self-awareness”?
- A recent knife attack in Kunming in which 33 people were killed is the latest in a long list of killings motivated by regional separatism, possibly mixed with some level of international jihadist involvement. In any case these attacks have occurred beyond just the Xinjiang north-western region, fueling rumors of more to come. The Chinese government will address complaints from the Uyghur minority, conveniently lumped with terrorism, by continuing the beating until morale improves. As its Central Asian neighbors are realizing, China’s pressure is not just political but also demographic and cultural. China calls the Kunming attack their 9/11 and is seeking international sympathy and support, as they’re about to kick off the second session of their 12th National People’s Congress.
Ukraine in Apnea as Putin Confirms Russian Posture, US/EU/IMF Consider Next Steps
- Russian president Vladimir Putin broke his silence about Ukraine with a statement that on face value rules out immediate war, but in reality leaves his options open. Putin reiterated Russia’s refusal to recognize the new government and called their ascent an “unconstitutional coup” (as opposed to the constitutional kind). The rest of the press conference similarly strained credulity, save for Mr. Putin’s recognition that deposed president Yanukovich “has no political future.” This means Russia is not supporting some sort of government in exile, but they are sticking to their guns – quite literally – that all they’re doing is protecting threatened ethnic Russians in Eastern Ukraine. Oh and by the way here’s the hiked gas bill, but it’s strictly business.
- Meanwhile Russia’s Roscomnadzor communications regulatory agency blocked [in Russian] pro-Ukrainian social media pages under the pretense they were promoting terrorism. But Glenn Greenwald can celebrate the courageous independence of the state-owned RT TV channel… at least on their English-spoken, export-focused broadcast.
- And a Russian surveillance plane flying along Turkey’s Black Sea coast yesterday got the Turkish Air Force to scramble F-16s.
- Next on Putin’s agenda, in case there was any doubt what it’s all about: proceeding with a Supreme Eurasian Economic Council to further integration with Belarus and Kazakhstan.
- British and Continental European diplomats have less appetite for sanctions against Russia than their American counterparts, but the Germans seem at least willing to consider applying meaningful pressure if Russia doesn’t start to back down by Thursday. US Secretary of State John Kerry is in Ukraine, and the US is offering a $1B energy aid package. But Ukraine needs much more, and the IMF is in town too.
- There have been tense encounters (video), though no reported outright fighting in Crimea yet, and Russian forces seem well on their way to have taken control of the peninsula. RIA Novosti (recently stripped of its ability to report somewhat independently from the Kremlin) claims mass defections affected Ukraine’s troops in the region. A media war is no doubt going on. Whether the Russians are really pulling back following their president’s press conference is not yet clear.
- All of this could spell trouble for Boeing’s titanium procurement, on the commercial side.
- Croatia reportedly has their fleet of 12 MiG-21s stuck in Odessa, Ukraine where there were sent last year for maintenance.
Marines Digging In
- Today’s video features the updated M9 Armored Combat Earthmover, a combat engineering vehicle to be fielded by the US Marines: