- - Thursday, October 2, 2014

After meeting recently with Supreme Leader Xi Jinping in Beijing, the chairwoman of Russia’s Federation Council said Mr. Xi told her that China will never support international sanctions against Moscow.

“This is China’s public position and we are grateful to China for such evaluation,” Valentina Matviyenko said, adding that Mr. Xi told her that China insists on “the inadmissibility of unilateral sanctions, their illegitimacy and counter-productivity.”

Ms. Matviyenko also disclosed that Mr. Xi said the sanctions were “ineffective and attempts to exert pressure on sovereign states in order to weaken them and change their positions, to restrain their development.”

Chinese Communist Party mouthpieces, such as the Global Times and various military-related online publications, reported her remarks with great emphasis.

U.S.-led Western sanctions over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military gambit in Ukraine have created an impetus for Moscow and Beijing to draw closer despite their troubled strategic and economic rivalry.

Their rift is substantial: Moscow wants to sell more arms to Beijing, as well as to some of China’s regional adversaries such as India and Vietnam. China wants Russia to join it in getting tougher on Japan, but Mr. Putin wants to improve the Moscow-Tokyo relationship and cooperate on Russian Far East development and energy exploration.


SEE ALSO: U.S. sanctions against Russia stymie Western oil companies’ Arctic aspirations


Moscow considers Ukraine in its sphere of influence, but China has taken the former Soviet republic under its nuclear umbrella via a Beijing-Kiev treaty that greatly annoyed Mr. Putin. Also, illicit transfers of Russian arms design and technology from Ukraine to China have cost Moscow tens of billions of dollars over the past 25 years.

Mr. Putin’s adventures in Ukraine have stemmed the flow of Russian-designed weapons to China, but Beijing has gained leverage in forcing Moscow to come to its terms — and China’s leadership savors the situation.

“The overall strategic partnership of coordination between China and Russia has entered a new historic stage,” Mr. Xi was quoted as telling Ms. Matviyenko, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Beijing is aiming to drive a wedge between Tokyo and Moscow via their dispute over four Russian-held islands that Japan also claims. Meanwhile, the West is pressuring Tokyo to enact more sanctions on Moscow and cancel Mr. Putin’s November visit to Japan.

It looks like Beijing is succeeding, as Russia increasingly is being driven into China’s arms by tough Western sanctions and Japan’s reluctant shift from Mr. Putin.

“The Russia-China partnership stands at an unprecedented height, with closer communication between the presidents of the two countries,” gushed Xinhua.

FOR THE DEFENSE OF JAPAN

Taiwan’s first democratically elected president has urged Japan to revise its constitution to allow Japan to have independent defense forces.

In a series of talks in Tokyo and Osaka last month, Lee Teng-hui said that since the end of World War II, the U.S. imposed a peace constitution on Japan so that Japan would never be able to attack the United States again; that Japan accepted the constitution and gave the task of national defense to the Americans; that the 9/11 terrorist attacks ushered in a downward slide of U.S. power that has caused the rapid decline of global U.S. influence, especially its increasing inability to provide effective defense for Japan.

Mr. Lee said the U.S. government wholeheartedly welcomed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent decision to assume collective defense. He would endorse it too and urged the Japanese government to revise its constitution so that Japan can take up its own self defense.

Mr. Lee was chosen as Taiwan’s leader by former Taiwanese President Chiang Ching-kuo, son of former strongman Chiang Kai-shek. While in office, he enacted democratic reforms and helped implement a free and open presidential election in 1996 that he won despite China’s threat of missile firings.

Because of his democratic reforms and pro-independence penchant, China regards Mr. Lee as Public Enemy No. 1 in Taiwan.

Miles Yu’s column appears Fridays. He can be reached at mmilesyu@gmail.com and on Twitter @Yu_Miles.

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