CCP Stealth War 137

(source: DOD) 

This Week: 

* U.S. Seeks to Strengthen Bilateral Security Ties with India to Counter China and Russia  

* Honduran President Visits China, Seeks to Deepen Ties After Derecognizing Taiwan

* South Korea Rebukes PRC Ambassador over Admonition Against Growing too Close to U.S.

* Pro-Democracy Party in Hong Kong Protests HSBC for Closing its Accounts 

* In Effort to Counter China, U.S., Japan and Australia Team to Fund Undersea Cable Link in Micronesia


U.S. Seeks to Strengthen Bilateral Security Ties with India to Counter China and Russia

On June 4-5, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin made a visit to India in an effort to strengthen bilateral security cooperation ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to Washington. Austin’s two-day visit resulted in several bilateral deals that laid out a “road map” for U.S.-India Defense Industrial Cooperation, including an initiative that would facilitate co-production of military hardware as well as an agreement that would streamline approval for India to acquire advanced U.S. weaponry. These initiatives aim to support India’s defense modernization efforts and promote long-term and sustainable supply chain stability by removing regulatory hurdles.

Many security analysts argue that Washington’s meeting with Delhi reflects a concerted effort to pull India away from Russia and China and alter its foreign policy agenda to be more aligned with U.S. interests. Prior to the Ukraine war, Russia was India’s biggest source of defense imports, amounting to 85 percent, according to a Stimson Center report. However, due to Moscow’s dwindling wartime resources, India’s military supply chain is at risk. This provides the U.S. with a unique window of opportunity to enhance military ties with India and wean Delhi off its dependency on Russia. Meanwhile, China and Russia’s “no limits” partnership represents a concerning development for India and the U.S. alike as Moscow continues to provide Beijing with more advanced weapons systems. India is continuing to look for ways to balance against China as ongoing border disputes remain a central security concern.

Honduran President Visits China, Seeks to Deepen Ties After Derecognizing Taiwan

On June 9, Honduran President Xiomara Castro landed in Shanghai to begin a six-day state visit to China, meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on June 12. As a part of the trip, Castro visited a Huawei research center in Shanghai and inaugurated the opening of Honduras’ new embassy in Beijing. The visit comes two months after Castro’s surprise derecognition of Taiwan and pivot towards the PRC in March.

During her meeting with Xi, Castro signed 17 bilateral agreements regarding cooperation in the areas of trade, construction, agriculture, and science and technology. In a joint statement, Castro affirmed Honduras’ commitment to the new relationship, mentioning support for (and potential participation in) several of Beijing’s international projects, such as the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative and the Global Civilization Initiative. Xi, for his part, offered to actively promote Honduran exports in China, while also expanding Chinese investment in Honduras.

To that point, the two leaders again pushed the idea of a free trade agreement between their respective countries. While the agreement had been proposed immediately after the diplomatic U-turn in March, talks have not yet begun. Chinese officials have suggested that negotiations will start in earnest next month, and are anticipated to conclude by 2024. Honduran agricultural goods (particularly coffee and shrimp) are expected to be the biggest beneficiaries of the trade agreement.

When Castro derecognized Taiwan, one of the hypothesized reasons for the move was a potential deal with Beijing for the financing of the Patuca II hydroelectric dam project. The major project would include two parts (Patuca IIA and IIB), with an estimated combined cost of $682 million. China’s state-owned Sinohydro previously provided $300 million to build Patuca III, which was finished in January 2021. Assuming a source of funding can be found, construction on Patuca II would begin later this year, with an estimated completion date of 2026. Combined, Patuca II and III are expected to produce around 800 MW of electricity, some 11.4 percent of Honduras’ total consumption in 2020. Given that Castro ran partially on a platform of lowering the cost of living (even declaring that users of less than 150 kW hours a month would pay nothing in her inaugural address), Patuca is an important project for Castro politically.

Since 2016, Beijing has managed to convince nine countries, many in Latin America, to derecognize Taiwan. Allegedly, in Honduras’ case, this came after Taiwan refused Castro’s demand for a restructuring of $600 million in debt. When Castro took office, she claimed to have inherited a bankrupt country, with 17 billion dollars in outstanding debt, worth approximately 51 percent of GDP. The Castro government also demanded a dramatic increase in aid from Taipei. Whatever the reason for the move, should the relationship between the PRC and Honduras prove especially profitable to the latter, Beijing may well have an easier time convincing the remaining 13 states that recognize Taiwan to change their mind.

South Korea Rebukes PRC Ambassador over Admonition Against Growing too Close to U.S.

In a meeting last Friday, South Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Chang Ho-jin strongly cautioned the PRC Ambassador in Seoul, Xing Haiming against making further “’unforgiveable’ criticism” of South Korea. The rebuke followed a speech by Xing last Thursday in which he laid the blame for strains in China-South Korea relations on Seoul, which he framed as bowing to “external pressures,” i.e., the U.S. In response, First Vice Foreign Minister Chang “strongly warned and expressed regret over Xing’s unconventional and provocative words and actions, which were contrary to diplomatic customs,” the South Korean Foreign Ministry noted in a statement. While relations were once close, China-South Korea ties have greatly worsened in recent years, with around 81 percent of South Koreans now expressing negative or very negative views of China.

Pro-Democracy Party in Hong Kong Protests HSBC for Closing its Accounts 

Last week, members of the pro-democracy group League of Social Democrats gathered outside the headquarters of HSBC in Hong Kong to protest the bank’s recent closure of three accounts used by the group, which is one of the few remaining opposition parties in the city. The protesters, who were led by party chairwoman Chan Po-ying, chanted statements such as: “Cancellation of bank accounts is soft political persecution!” and “Everyone is at risk in this international financial center!”

The group was first notified that their accounts would be canceled in February, but despite repeated requests for clarification, they received no reasoning from the London-based bank as to why their accounts were canceled. The pro-democracy League of Social Democrats has been under growing pressure from the authorities of late. In March, Chan was convicted of the charge of “collecting money in a public place without a permit.” She was arrested again this year on June 4 for carrying an electric candle and a yellow paper mourning flower to mark the 34th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Once grudgingly permitted, authorities have largely snuffed out any public remembrance of June 4 by Hong Kong civil society, including the annual candlelight vigils that were commonplace prior to the 2019-2020 protests and subsequent crackdown.

In Effort to Counter China, U.S., Japan and Australia Team to Fund Undersea Cable Link in Micronesia 

Last Tuesday, Japan declared its intention to join the U.S. and Australia in a nearly $100 million undersea cable construction project that will strengthen regional connectivity by better linking the East Micronesia island nations. The roughly 1,400 mile cable will, per the Japanese Foreign Ministry, connect Kosrae state in the Federated States of Micronesia, Tarawa in Kiribati and Nauru to an existing cable in Pohnpei in Micronesia. The parties noted in a joint statement that the next steps are to complete the cable survey, design and manufacturing. The project is slated for completion some time in 2025. The decision follows the recent meeting of the Quad in Tokyo last month, in which developing secure undersea cables as a key element of communications infrastructure and the basis for internet connectivity was established as a priority.