From war of words to unrestricted confrontation between Communist China and the West

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Japanese destroyers Akebono and Murasame take part in a drill off the coast of Brunei. Photo: AP

There has been a growing war of words between Beijing and London following mass protests in Hong Kong against an extradition bill and pressure from Communist China.

Boris Johnson, who could be Britain’s prime minister by the end of the month, said on Wednesday (July 3) he backed the people of Hong Kong every inch of the way and cautioned China that the “one country, two systems” should not be cast aside.

“The people of Hong Kong are perfectly within their rights to be very sceptical, very anxious about proposals for extradition to the mainland that could be politically motivated, that could be arbitrary and could infringe their human rights,” Johnson told Reuters in an interview.

“So yes I do support them and I will happily speak up for them and back them every inch of the way,” the former foreign secretary said. “And I would stress to our friends in Beijing that the ‘one country, two systems’ approach has worked, is working and should not be cast aside.”

Liu Xiaoming, China’s ambassador to London, was summoned to the Foreign Office accused of making unacceptable criticisms of the UK after a rare press conference in which he claimed that the British foreign secretary was backing law-breakers in Hong Kong, according to the Guardian.

Relations between the UK and China cooled sharply after Jeremy Hunt called on Beijing not to use the protests in Hong Kong as a “pretext for repression”, said the report.

“In the minds of some people, they regard Hong Kong as still under British rule. They forget … that Hong Kong has now returned to the embrace of the Motherland,” China’s ambassador to London, Liu Xiaoming, said, “I tell them: hands off Hong Kong and show respect. This colonial mindset is still haunting the minds of some officials or politicians.”

Earlier, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang chided Hunt, saying that only after Hong Kong’s return to China did its people get an “unprecedented” guarantee about democracy and freedom.

“To say that the freedom of Hong Kong residents is something Britain strived for is simply shameless,” he told a news briefing. “I would like to ask Mr. Hunt, during the British colonial era in Hong Kong, was there any democracy to speak of? Hong Kongers didn’t even have the right to protest.”

Over the weekend, the Chinese PLA carried out an anti-ship ballistic missile test and fired at least one missile into the South China Sea, escalating tensions beyond the muddy waters of Hong Kong.

The Pentagon has slammed the continued Chinese militarization of the South China Sea on the heels of a CNBC and NBC News report that Beijing was conducting those missile tests in the disputed waters.

“Of course the Pentagon was aware of the Chinese missile launch from the man-made structures in the South China Sea near the Spratly Islands,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn wrote in an emailed statement.

“What’s truly disturbing about this act is that it’s in direct contradiction to President Xi’s statement in the Rose Garden in 2015 when he pledged to the U.S., the Asia-Pacific region, and the world, that he would not militarize those man-made outposts, ” Eastburn added.

The development came as the U.S. and China had just paused trade tensions. During the G-20 summit over the weekend in Japan, U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to restart talks and not impose new tariffs on each other’s goods.

What’s happening in Hong Kong is linked to a full scale confrontation between Communist China and the west, which is inevitable. The Indo-Pacific strategy is largely seen as a response by the US and its allies to China’s rise.

When the G20 flags were just taken down from Osaka streets, Japan flexes its military muscle on edge of South China Sea with joint naval drills involving its most advanced warships.

According to Washington Post, One of Japan’s largest warships, the helicopter carrier Izumo, offers a glimpse of where its military is headed: For the first time, troops from a newly formed amphibious brigade of Japan’s army participated in an extended naval deployment.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made amending the constitution to allow the military greater leeway one of his lifetime goals. President Donald Trump has sought to help that cause, calling repeatedly for Japan to do more to defend itself under its alliance with the U.S.

On the other side of the South China Sea, another major ally of Trump has refused to step aside as an on-looker.

“It is in no-one’s interest in the Indo-Pacific to see an inevitably more competitive U.S.-China relationship become adversarial in character,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a speech Wednesday at an event hosted by Asialink and Bloomberg.

“We should not just sit back and passively await our fate in the wake of a major power contest,” the Australian Prime Minister said.

Let’s move our eyesight from the Malacca Strait to the conflicts at Hormuz Strait.

Reuters recently reported that Tehran transferred an Iranian oil consignment of two million barrels to a Chinese tanker in Malaysia, which is already on its way to China.

“Yet geography tells a more important story in the Gulf region: The current tensions are less about Iran and the Persian Gulf than about China,” the New York Times wrote.

Iranian Minister of Oil, Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, says Tehran is striving day and night to sell its crude oil, despite U.S. sanctions.

In a Bloomberg Television interview in Vienna, on Tuesday, July 2, Namdar Zanganeh reiterated that the Islamic Republic is working “day and night” to find ways to export its crude.

President Donald Trump’s administration has repeatedly insisted that it was trying to push Iran’s oil exports to “zero.”

Retaliating, Iranian officials have dismissed such moves as “psychological warfare,” saying Tehran has its own ways to sidestep American sanctions and sell its oil.

Meanwhile, Kpler, a firm that tracks the movement of oil tankers, told Radio Farda that Iran delivered its second oil consignment to China this week.

Pilitico reports earlier that the U.S State Department is seriously considering using an Obama-era loophole to allow China to import oil from Iran, violating the Trump administration’s pledge to bring Iranian oil exports to zero.

The State Department declined to comment on the imports, but said the department “is in regular contact with Beijing regarding our maximum economic pressure campaign on the Iranian regime.”

“We’re going to zero,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said when he announced the policy in late April. “We’re going to zero across the board.”

President Trump tweeted on Tuesday that any “attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force.”

JPost reports that a top Iranian military commander warned on Wednesday that the country possesses “secret weapons,” a day after Israel’s Foreign Minister said that the country is preparing for possible military involvement in any potential military escalation in the Persian Gulf, as tensions continue to rise between Iran and the United States.

“Our deterrence and secret weapons have stopped the filthy enemy 200 miles away [from the Iranian borders] in the Strait of Hormuz,” Brig.-Gen. Alireza Sabahi Fard, commander of the Iranian Army’s Khatam ol-Anbiya Air Defense Base, was quoted by Iran’s Fars News as saying on Wednesday at a forum in Tehran.

When the Middle East is in, “This is not about Iran; it’s about China”, the New York Times said.

Everything is just beginning.

By Cloudy Seagail

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