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Inside China

- - Wednesday, September 21, 2011

THE GANDO DISPUTE

The ticking sound of a political time bomb in Chinese-South Korean relations got a little louder this week. On Monday, South Koreas Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry sent an official note to the National Assembly affirming South Koreas territorial and sovereign rights to a large swath of land inside China's border, just north of the upper portion of the Chinese-North Korean boundary.

The area is roughly 17,000 square miles, twice the size of New Jersey. The Chinese call the area the Yanbian Ethnic Korean Autonomous Prefecture, while the Koreans have long known it as the Gando region.

The root of the dispute dates to the 1909 Gando Convention in which the Japanese, who had been exerting de facto colonial control over Korea after the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War, handed this ethnically Korean territory to Chinas Qing dynasty, and China has kept it ever since.

Popular demand is growing among Koreans to void the Gando Convention. In October 2004, Ban Ki-moon, the current United Nations secretary-general who was then South Koreas foreign affairs and trade minister, caused similar diplomatic stir when he responded to a parliamentary inquiry by announcing that "the Gando Convention is legally null and void." After China issued a strong warning to Seoul, Mr. Ban backed down by saying that although the Gando Convention is illegal, South Korea "will deal with sovereignty of the region from a nonlegal standpoint."

Nevertheless, China demanded that Korean officials withdraw the statement, only to be met with a repeated statement from Seoul that the Gando Convention was indeed illegal but no immediate return of the area to the Koreans would be demanded.

TAIWAN CANDIDATE PSYCHOANALYZED

An unidentified "senior U.S. official" took to the pages of the Financial Times this week to criticize popular Taiwan opposition presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen as potentially bringing new instability to the Taiwan Strait. But the official, identified in news reports as a White House National Security Council staff member, is not the only one taking pot shots at the candidate.

Ms. Tsai was in Washington this week and is the Democratic Progressive Party choice to face current Kuomintang Party President Ma Ying-jeou in a presidential election set for in January.

China chimed in Tuesday, issued a timely, nearly 15,000-word-long article psychoanalyzing Ms. Tsai in a tone typical of Chinese communist propaganda. The article was based upon a psychological profile of Ms. Tsai called "Observations and Analysis of Tsai Ing-wens Political Personality." It was carried by some of China's major news outlets. The article analyzes the way Ms. Tsais eyes move, her hand and body gestures, and her educational and family backgrounds. It reaches the conclusion that she is "cold," "calculating," "pro-Japanese," "anti-communist," "spoiled," "stubborn," "opportunistic," "glib," "mendacious," "self-seeking," "cruel," "revengeful," "pro-[Taiwan] independence," "dishonest" and, worst of all, a "Cold Warrior."

NO DRILLING UNLESS CHINA APPROVES?

News of Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishnas visit to Vietnam on Friday and the subsequent signed deal between New Delhi and Hanoi to jointly drill for oil and gas in the South China Sea close to the Vietnamese coast set off a binge of protests by Chinas government.

Vietnam insists the proposed area falls within its sovereign waters under the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Jiang Yu did not directly challenge Vietnams legal claim, but he said the U.N. convention did not rule out "a countrys right formed in history that has been consistently claimed." The animosity between Vietnam and China is longstanding. China has felt unease with India recently as the two Asian giants compete for energy resources, regional and global status.

Miles Yu's column appears Thursdays. He can be reached at mmilesyu@gmail.com.