Asian Affairs: May 14-31, 2023
The second half of May saw the first China-Central Asia Summit convene in Xi'an while the G7 nations met in Hiroshima.
Inaugural China-Central Asia Summit Hosted in Xi’an
On May 19, the first China-Central Asia Summit was convened, marking a notable event in the ongoing relationship between China and the Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The summit served as a forum for discussion and collaboration, addressing a variety of topics including economic partnerships and security issues.
The summit took place in a time of significant global change. China, holding the position of the world's second-largest economy, has shown interest in bolstering its connections with Central Asia, a region known for its resource wealth and strategic geographical position. Concurrently, Central Asian countries have shown interest in capitalizing on China's economic strength and technological progress.
A key focus of the summit was economic cooperation, with China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) being a primary topic. The BRI, an extensive infrastructure project spanning continents, was discussed in the context of its potential to enhance regional connectivity and economic integration.
The leaders acknowledged the role of the BRI in promoting regional connectivity and economic integration. They deliberated on ways to expand cooperation under the BRI, focusing on infrastructure development, trade facilitation, and investment promotion. They also recognized the potential challenges associated with the BRI, including financing issues, environmental sustainability, and equitable distribution of benefits.
Security cooperation was another major theme of the summit. In response to shared challenges such as terrorism, extremism, and drug trafficking, the leaders agreed to enhance cooperation in security. They committed to improving intelligence sharing, joint law enforcement operations, and capacity building to combat these threats.
The summit also emphasized the importance of cultural exchanges and people-to-people connections. The leaders agreed to promote cultural exchanges and tourism cooperation to foster mutual understanding and friendship among the peoples of China and Central Asia.
The summit also addressed global issues such as climate change and sustainable development. The leaders expressed their commitment to the Paris Agreement and agreed to enhance cooperation in areas such as renewable energy, water conservation, and environmental protection.
The summit concluded with the adoption of a joint declaration, which outlined the future direction of China-Central Asia cooperation. The declaration emphasized the principles of mutual respect, equality, and mutual benefit, and reaffirmed the commitment of the participating countries to deepen their comprehensive strategic partnership.
49th G7 Summit Convenes in Hiroshima, Affirms Stance on China
The 49th meeting of the Group of 7 (G7) nations took place in Hiroshima from May 19 to May 21. The member states were represented by their respective prime ministers, presidents and chancellor for several sessions covering issues including but not limited to economic resilience and security, the advancement of clean energy economies, sustainable development in developing countries, continued progress for the G7’s Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, continued commitment to nuclear disarmament, and a unified stance on matters pertaining to China and Ukraine, the latter of which was represented by its president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, as a guest nation.
The Group’s stance on China was addressed first in the document’s mention of regional affairs. Outlined in Section 51 of a 66-section Leaders’ Communiqué published on May 20, the Group maintains that it stands united in multiple elements that pertain to their respective relations with China.
Section 51 asserts that the G7 nations are eager to continue to build and maintin peaceful, cooperative and constructive relations with China.
“[The Groups’s] policy approaches are not designed to harm China nor do we seek to thwart China’s economic progress and development,” the Communiqué reads. “A growing China that plays by international rules would be of global interest. We are not decoupling or turning inwards.”
Later in Section 51, the Communiqué establishes parameters for engagement with China. As such, it is stated that the Group will “address the challenges posed by China’s non-market policies and practices, which distort the global economy” and will “counter malign practices, such as illegitimate technology transfer or data disclosure.”
Section 51 also contains mention of the Group’s concerns regarding the East and South China Seas, maintenance of the member states’ one-China policies and stability surrounding the Taiwan Strait. The section then affirms the Group’s concern for China’s policies involving Xinjiang and Tibet, as well as Hong Kong. The section ends with a call on China to cease “nterference activities aimed at undermining the security and safety of our communities, the integrity of our democratic institutions and our economic prosperity” as well as a call for China to press Russia to cooperate in the pursuit of a peaceful end to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
Section 52, much shorter than Section 51, narrows in on China’s maritime activities in the South China Sea.
There is no legal basis for China’s expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea, and we oppose China’s militarization activities in the region. We emphasize the universal and unified character of the UNCLOS and reaffirm UNCLOS’s important role in setting out the legal framework that governs all activities in the oceans and the seas. We reiterate that the award rendered by the Arbitral Tribunal on July 12, 2016, is a significant milestone, which is legally binding upon the parties to those proceedings, and a useful basis for peacefully resolving disputes between the parties.
G7 Hiroshima Leaders’ Communiqué, Section 52
In Section 53, specific attention is paid to North Korea. The section warns that any “reckless actions,” described as “nuclear tests or launches that use ballistic missile technology, which undermine regional stability and pose a grave threat to international peace and security,” would be met with “swift, united, and robust international response.” The section ends with a call for North Korea to accept proposed lines of dialogue from the US, Japan, and South Korea as well as a final call for North Korea to “respect human rights, facilitate access for international humanitarian organizations, and resolve the abductions issue immediately.”
Japanese Court Rules Government Position on Same-Sex Marriage is Unconstitutional
A Japanese court in Nagoya ruled on Tuesday, May 30, ruled that the Japanese government’s stance on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, citing Articles 14 and 24 of the country’s constitution. Japan remains the only G7 member (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States) without legal recognition of same-sex marriage.
Judge Osamu Nishimura said in delivering the court’s opinion that the lack of protections for the relationships of same-sex couples violates Article 14 of Japan’s Constitution. However, the court dismissed the request for monetary compensation issued by the plaintiffs.
A previous ruling by a Sapporo court in 2021 declared that the government’s failure to recognize same sex marriage violate Article 14, Paragraph 1 of the Constitution.
All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin.
Peers and peerage shall not be recognized.
No privilege shall accompany any award of honor, decoration or any distinction, nor shall any such award be valid beyond the lifetime of the individual who now holds or hereafter may receive it.
Article 14, Constitution of Japan
It was noted by the lawyer of the plaintiffs, a Japanese male couple, that the court’s ruling reflects the fact that Article 24 of Japan’s Constitution, which deals with matrimonial matters, and notably does not make specific exclusion of same-sex couples in its criteria of marriage. The Tokyo District Court previously ruled in November 2022 that while a lack of recognition for same-sex marriage isn’t explicitly constitutional, the absence of legal recognition and protection of the status of same-sex couples could likewise not be justified using the terms of the Constitution.
Marriage shall be based only on the mutual consent of both sexes and it shall be maintained through mutual cooperation with the equal rights of husband and wife as a basis.
With regard to choice of spouse, property rights, inheritance, choice of domicile, divorce and other matters pertaining to marriage and the family, laws shall be enacted from the standpoint of individual dignity and the essential equality of the sexes.
Article 24, Constitution of Japan
These rulings in mind, the path to legal recognition and protection for same-sex couples remains less than certain. In summer of 2022, an Osaka court determined that the government’s current stance on same-sex relationships was, in fact, constitutional. Like the court in Sapporo, the plaintiffs in the Osaka case were denied their request for monetary compensation. The court noted the lack of public debate surrounding same-sex partnerships in its decision, conceding that the question of where same-sex couples stand vis-a-vis the government and its definition of marriage could not be dismissed outright.
Despite the findings of the courts in question, the Japanese government’s stance on same-sex marriage has remained cautious. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said that advancing the recognition of same-sex marriages should be considered “very carefully” as it is “a topic that will change people’s perception of family, values, and society,” prompting backlash.
Public attitudes toward same-sex marriage in Japan have become more lax in recent years.
North Korean Reconnaissance Satellite Launch Fails
In a significant development that has drawn international attention, North Korea's first attempt at launching a military reconnaissance satellite ended in failure. This event, a setback for Kim Jong-un's ambitions to expand his military capabilities, has far-reaching implications for regional security. The failed launch attempt has not only highlighted the technical challenges facing North Korea's space program but also underscored the ongoing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
The satellite, which was designed to monitor US military activities, was affixed to the rocket and launched early Wednesday morning. This was a significant step by North Korea, showcasing its commitment to the advancement of its military capabilities. However, the launch was unsuccessful, with the rocket crashing into the sea west of South Korea. This failure was a stark reminder of the technical challenges and risks associated with space launches. It also underscored the fact that despite its ambitions, North Korea's space program is still in its nascent stages.
Following the unsuccessful launch, the North Korean regime was unusually quick to admit the failure. The regime vowed to conduct a second launch after investigating the cause of the failure. This admission marked a departure from the usual secrecy surrounding North Korea's military activities and signaled a potential shift in its approach to handling setbacks in its space program.
Meanwhile, South Korea's military has been engaged in the recovery of wreckage believed to be from the crashed North Korean rocket. This recovery effort could provide valuable insights into North Korea's space program, including how the country acquires advanced technology and materials despite being heavily sanctioned. The analysis of this wreckage could shed light on the technical issues that led to the failure, inform future efforts to mitigate such risks, and potentially reveal the supply chains and networks that North Korea is using to support its programs. This information could be crucial for strengthening the enforcement of sanctions and preventing the further proliferation of missile and space technology in North Korea.
Technical analysis of the launch failure points to issues with the Chollima-1 rocket's new engine system. According to North Korea's state media agency, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the failure was due to the "low reliability and stability" of the new engine system and the "unstable character of the fuel used."North Korea has pledged to address these issues and make a second launch attempt "as soon as possible”.
This launch, while ostensibly a setback for North Korea’s nascent space program, underscores the dual-use nature of such technological endeavors that concurrently serve to advance the nation's ballistic missile capabilities. The technological congruities between space launch vehicles and ballistic missiles are fundamentally significant, with both necessitating the capacity to propel a payload over substantial distances. In this instance, the payload was a satellite, purposed for the surveillance of US military activities. However, identical technology could be repurposed to launch a ballistic missile carrying a warhead, intended to strike a terrestrial target.
By developing and testing rockets under the auspices of its space program, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is able to accrue invaluable experience and data that can be utilized to enhance the reliability, range, and accuracy of its ballistic missiles, even in the event of a launch failure. This dual-use nature of the DPRK's space program presents a major concern for the international community, as it enables the nation to incrementally advance its military capabilities while circumventing international sanctions and restrictions specifically designed to prevent the development and proliferation of ballistic missile technology.
This concern is further exacerbated by the DPRK's historical nuclear tests and its self-declaration as a nuclear-armed state. The failed launch attempt, therefore, raises the disconcerting possibility that the DPRK could be progressing toward the development of a ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead. Despite the failure of this specific launch, the attempt itself provides the DPRK with valuable data and experience, underscoring the ongoing threat posed by its ballistic missile program.
China Bans Micron in Critical Sectors
In a significant development that has reverberated across the global semiconductor industry, the Chinese government has imposed a ban on microchips produced by Micron Technology, a leading American semiconductor company. This decision was announced following a review conducted by China's Cyberspace Administration, which deemed Micron's chips to pose serious cybersecurity problems.
Micron Technology, headquartered in Boise, Idaho, is a key player in the global semiconductor industry. The company is renowned for its production of DRAM and NAND memory chips, which are integral components in a wide array of electronic devices, ranging from smartphones to computers. The imposition of this ban, therefore, has far-reaching implications, not only for Micron Technology but also for the broader semiconductor industry.
Delving into the specifics of the ban, it primarily targets companies in China that handle critical information, prohibiting them from procuring microchips manufactured by Micron Technology. This decision was precipitated by concerns raised by China's internet watchdog regarding the cybersecurity risks associated with Micron's chips.
The Chinese authorities have cited serious cybersecurity problems as the rationale behind this ban. This assertion underscores the growing emphasis on cybersecurity in the realm of global technology and trade and the increasing scrutiny of foreign technology companies operating within China and Chinese supply chains. The ban is seen as a direct signal to Micron that it is no longer welcome, marking a departure from Beijing's usual indirect methods of excluding foreign technology companies from its supply chains. This development underscores the escalating tensions in the global technology sector and the increasing complexities of navigating international trade relations.
The imposition of this ban has had immediate and significant repercussions for Micron Technology. The company's stock performance was adversely impacted following the announcement of the ban, reflecting investor concerns regarding the potential ramifications of this development on Micron's business operations.
Looking beyond the immediate impact, the ban could have far-reaching implications for Micron's position in the global market. China represents one of the largest markets for semiconductors, and the exclusion of Micron's products from this market could significantly affect the company's revenues and growth prospects. Furthermore, the ban could potentially disrupt Micron's supply chains, given the interconnected nature of the global semiconductor industry.
The long-term effects of the ban will largely depend on the duration of the ban and the company's ability to mitigate its impact. However, it is clear that this development represents a significant challenge for Micron, requiring strategic adjustments to navigate the evolving landscape of the global semiconductor industry.
The international response to China's ban on Micron has been swift and unequivocal. US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, in a statement reported by Bloomberg, asserted that the US “won’t tolerate” the recent decision by Chinese authorities to ban chips by Micron Technology Inc. in some critical sectors. Raimondo described the move as "economic coercion" and stated that the US does not believe it will be successful.
The US is considering taking action in response to the ban, reflecting the escalating tensions between the two global powers in the technology sector. The exact nature of these potential actions remains to be seen, but the strong response from the US Commerce Secretary underscores the seriousness with which the US is treating this development. A possible response from Representative Mike Gallagher, a Wisconsin Republican who leads a China-focused congressional committee, has called for adding Changxin Memory Technologies Inc. to a US list of firms with restricted access to American technology. This proposal, if enacted, could further escalate the technology dispute between the US and China.
Reactions from other key players in the global semiconductor industry are also noteworthy. The ban could potentially benefit Micron's key rivals, such as South Korea's Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix. However, the growing geopolitical tensions cast a shadow over the industry as firms need to navigate rising uncertainties that could impact investment and supply chain management.
The ban on Micron has far-reaching implications that extend beyond the immediate parties involved. The move could disrupt the global semiconductor supply chain, given Micron's significant role as a producer of DRAM and NAND memory chips. This disruption could potentially lead to an increase in prices for memory chips and a shortage of these chips in the global market, affecting a wide array of industries that rely on these components.
Moreover, the ban underscores the role of geopolitical tensions in the technology sector. The move is seen as a retaliatory measure in retaliation to Washington's efforts to restrict Beijing's access to key technology. This action, however, has led to escalating tensions with the US and other technology-producing countries, creating a complex and uncertain environment for global technology companies. It also reflects China's broader strategy to reduce its dependence on foreign technology and become more self-reliant, further complicating the geopolitical landscape in the technology sector.
The ban could also potentially benefit Micron's competitors, such as South Korea's Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix. These companies could seize the opportunity to increase their market share in China, one of the largest markets for semiconductors. However, they also face the challenge of navigating the geopolitical tensions and uncertainties that have been heightened by the ban.
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