Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou’s visit to Taiping/Itu Aba Island in the Spratly Islands on 28 January 2016 was justified among other things on the grounds that he visited men and women in uniform before every Lunar New Year and that he was seeking to clarify the legal status of the island.
There are however, some issues that need to be considered.
For one, Ma did not mention the visit to Taiping of his predecessor Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in February 2008. Standing before military personnel this omission perhaps weakened Taiwan’s/Republic of China’ (ROC) image and position, which is to say that there is an element of dissonance between the Kuomintang’s (KMT) position and that of its political rival. Read more
A shorter version of this piece was published as Jabin T. Jacob, ‘North Korea hasn’t gone rogue. Nukes are its geo-political trump card’, Catch News, 16 January 2016.
Following North Korea’s fourth nuclear test since 2006, the world led by the UN Security Council has condemned Pyongyang’s action. The DPRK for its part blamed South Korea’s propaganda broadcasts in the Demilitarised Zone – which includes K-pop songs, by the way – and deployment of military assets, saying these were pushing the two countries to the ‘brink of war’.
The UNSC’s resolutions since 2006 imposing and strengthening sanctions on North Korea for continuing to develop its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles have however not been very effective, even if they have slowed down the pace of development of these programmes. This is because Pyongyang views nuclear weapons as a guarnator of its regime security. Given American efforts at regime change in West Asia, Pyongyang clearly sees nuclear weapons as the ace in its pack. The Americans reminded Kim Jong-un’s regime of that threat by flying a B-52 over South Korea in a joint response to the North Korean test. The bomber that took off from far-away Guam, can carry precision guided conventional ordnance as well as nuclear weapons. Read more