I Overview

China:

• Foreign Ministers meet at Moscow
• Local Commanders meet at Chushul/Moldo
• China – EU Summit held
• TikTok arrives at agreement with Oracle

Japan:

• PM Abe steps down; Suga takes over as new PM
• PM Modi speaks telephonically with PM Suga
• Senior Officials of Quad meet virtually
• PM Suga holds telephone conversation with Chinese President Xi
• PM Suga addresses the UN General Assembly

Hong Kong:

• Human rights situation in HK comes up at UN Human Rights Council

North Korea:
 
• North Korean leader Kim Jong Un apologizes for killing of South Korean citizen

II Developments in China

Foreign Ministers meet at Moscow

External Affairs Minister Jaishankar met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang at Moscow on 10 September on the sidelines of a SCO meeting and discussed the ongoing border situation between the two countries. They issued a 5 point Joint Press Statement which outlined how the two governments would handle the military standoff. The fact that the two Ministers held a discussion and kept that channel of communication open was the significant take away. Also, the fact that the two sides could agree on some aspects of the situation and issue a joint press statement was alsi encouraging. 

Local Commanders meet at Chushul/Moldo

Following on from the meeting of the two Foreign Ministers of India and China at Moscow, the local commanders of the two Armies held another meeting on 21 September. This was their 6th such meeting. For the first time the Indian side included the Joint Secretary dealing with China in our Ministry of External Affairs. This showed the Chinese side that India pursued an all-of-government approach to the issue. While there is no significant movement towards disengagement and de-escalation of forces in Ladakh, the fact that for the first time the local commanders were able to issue a joint press statement was significant. They agreed to meet again soon. With winter approaching both armies are now prepared to winter over in these inhospitable climes. 

China – EU Summit held 

The China – EU Summit meeting was held virtually on 14 September 2020. China was represented by President Xi Jinping while the EU was led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and included EU Council President Charles Michel and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The EU leadership was supposedly tough on China asking it to open markets, respect minorities, step back from a crackdown on HK. They are reported to have said that Europe will no longer be taken advantage of in trade. Such signals show the shifting attitudes of the world at large towards China. 

TikTok arrives at agreement with Oracle​​​​​​​

Bytedance, the maker of the Chinese app TikTok has arrived at agreement with Oracle to restructure its operations in the United States. While the nature of the agreement seems hazy, there is still the question of whether these arrangements will get the approval of the US Administration as well as the Chinese government. The story does not seem to have played itself out as yet.

III Developments in Japan

PM Abe steps down; Suga takes over as new PM​​​​​​​

September has been a momentous month in Japanese internal developments with former PM Abe stepping down from the position he held since 2012 due to illness. Since the Liberal Democratic Party still holds a majority in Parliament, it became obvious that whoever was chosen as successor to Abe as the leader of the Party would automatically become Japan’s next PM. Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga who served Abe loyally over the entire 8 year period of his Prime Ministership was the chosen successor, won the Party leadership in a 3-way election and has taken over as the new Japanese PM. Although not as charismatic as Abe, the new PM is likely to continue the policies of the Abe Government of which he himself was an integral part. 

PM Modi speaks telephonically with PM Suga

PM Modi and PM Suga had a telephone conversation on 25 September to congratulate the latter on taking over as the PM of Japan. Suga was invited to visit India at an appropriate time for the next leadership level summit meeting between the two PMs. They also spoke about the ever increasing importance of the India – Japan strategic partnership in a post Covid world, of the importance of building resilient global supply chains and the importance of the Indo-Pacific as a free, open and inclusive region. 

Senior Officials of Quad meet virtually

Senior officials of the Quad countries – India, Japan, Australia and the US – held a virtual meeting on 25 September to take stock of their partnership and how to move forward towards the Ministerial meeting scheduled to be held in Tokyo next month. 

PM Suga holds telephone conversation with Chinese President Xi

PM Suga also spoke recently with Chinese President Xi Jinping over telephone stating that a stable Japan – China relationship was important for the region and the world at large. They did not schedule a visit to Japan by Xi, which has been in the works for some time now. Commentators in Japan have argued that one of the reasons for Abe stepping down as PM was the increased tension between the US and China which was making Japan’s role very difficult. 

PM Suga addresses the UN General Assembly

PM Suga of Japan addressed the UN General Assembly on 25 September and announced that he was willing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong UN without any preconditions to thrash out issues between the two countries. The address was being looked at in Japan as a kind of coming out party for Suga who underscored the significance of multilateralism and free trade and promised to promote reform of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Largely, he has indicated that he will continue the Abe foreign policy. Given the objective conditions which obtain in world politics, the India – Japan partnership is expected to strengthen even as the rise of China poses a challenge to the world. 

IV Developments in Hong Kong

Human rights situation in HK comes up at UN Human Rights Council

Several Western countries including the EU, UK, Australia and Canada called on China to restore basic legal rights to HK citizens as well open up scrutiny to Xinjiang at a meeting of the Human Rights Council at Geneva. They called on China to uphold rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Sino-British Joint Declaration on HK as well as to maintain the independence of the judiciary. UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has said that she is discussing a possible visit to Xinjiang with the Chinese authorities. 

V Developments in North Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un apologizes for killing of South Korean citizen

North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un has apologized to the South Korean people for the killing of a South Korean official from its Ministry of Oceans who was found near the North Korean coast. The North Korean military fired at him and killed him. South Korea reported that his body was burned by North Korea suspecting him to be a Covid infected person. In turn, North Korea has stated that the body was never found and that what they had burned was his dinghy since those are the current regulations to deal with the Covid induced crisis. The issue has become another controversy between the North and South. 
 


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(The views expressed are personal)
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About the Author

Ambassador Gautam Bambawale

Former Ambassador of India to China and Distinguished Fellow, Ananta Centre Former Ambassador to Bhutan, China and High Commissioner to Pakistan

Ambassador (Retd) Gautam Bambawale was a member of the Indian Foreign Service from 1984 to 2018. He was India’s Ambassador to Bhutan, Pakistan and China.

Bambawale was stationed in Washington DC in 2004-07 during the Indo-US nuclear deal which transformed ties between the two countries. He has been India’s first Consul General in Guangzhou (China) 2007-09. He was Director of the Indian Cultural Centre, Berlin 1994-98.

Ambassador Bambawale worked in the Prime Minister’s Office 2002-04. At the Ministry of External Affairs he was Joint Secretary for East Asia from 2009-2014. Bambawale has dealt with China for 15 years of his 34 year diplomatic career. He is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and German.

Ambassador Bambawale is currently Distinguished Professor, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Symbiosis International University, Pune and teaches a course on Diplomacy and International Governance at the Symbiosis School of International Studies. He has an M.Phil. in Economics from the Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune.