World News Brief, Thursday April 24

Disputed East China Sea islands covered by Washington-Tokyo defense treaty, says Obama; labour strikes at Chinese factories spread to include 30,000 protestors; Ukrainian politician believed to have been tortured and killed; Brazil hosts conference on future of internet governance; and more 

Top of the Agenda

Obama Navigates Asia-Pacific Security Challenges

U.S. president Barack Obama assured Japan of the United States' position that disputed East China Sea islands under Japanese control, called the Senkaku Islands in Japan and Diaoyu Islands in China, are covered by the defense treaty between Washington and Tokyo. The remarks came ahead of Obama's arrival in Japan on Wednesday, the first stop on an Asia tour that comes amid regional security tensions with China (BBC) and a military push by Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe (WSJ). Meanwhile, naval chiefs from twenty Pacific Rim countries including China, the United States, Japan, and the Philippines approved the first-ever code of conduct for unplanned naval encounters in a bid to avert emergencies amid escalating territorial tensions in the region (WSJ), while a new analysis of satellite imagery dampened expectations of an upcoming North Korean nuclear test (Reuters).


"[Japan and the United States] need to agree upon what constitutes unfortunate but acceptable levels of ordinary harassment around the islands (e.g., occasional intrusions by Chinese vessels, aircraft or drones; incidents involving ships switching on their engagement radars). The allies need to distinguish this from behavior in which China aims to meaningfully change the facts on the ground, such as by stationing military forces on the islands, building and claiming structures there or attempting to deny Japanese access. The allies also need to have some private and frank conversations about likely responses to such Chinese actions," writes Jennifer Lind for the Asahi Shimbun.

"Besides the question of personal chemistry between Obama and Abe, the 'discordance' surfacing within the alliance risks sending the wrong message to the Chinese, who are watching for any sign of weakness in U.S.-Japan relations which might help them contest Japan's sovereignty over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Tokyo's priority will therefore be a joint declaration by the two leaders in reaffirming the healthy state of the alliance. Obama will no doubt grant this assurance, although it will be carefully worded to avoid the U.S. being automatically dragged into an open conflict between Japan and China over the disputed territory," writes Yo-Jung Chen in the Diplomat.

"Rebalancing is indeed desirable, including reconfirmation of American security commitments. Yet that alone will only increase the likelihood of an arms race and the risks of military clashes. All around the periphery of China nations should follow the Philippine example of seeking to test China's claims and their own before an impartial international tribunal, and the U.S. should be openly encouraging them to do so, despite its own mixed record in dealing with international law," writes CFR's Jerome Cohen in ChinaFile.


Pacific Rim

Labor Strikes Spread at Chinese Factories

A strike at a Chinese factory over better pay and benefits has spread, gaining up to thirty thousand participants, according to the New York-based NGO China Labor Watch. The strike comes as rising wages have led manufacturers to move some operations to lower-cost countries like Vietnam (Guardian).


Ukrainian politician believed to have been tortured and killed

Brazil hosts conference on future of internet governance