Wednesday, September 5, 2012

How the Tea Party Harpooned Hillary Clinton's Asia Mission

If you thought the only targets in the Tea Party's sights were Barack Obama's birth certificate and college records, please read on. Their actions two months ago made Hillary Clinton's job on this Asia mission infinitely more frustrating than it needed to be and subjected her to attacks by the Chinese press.
From left, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell, U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke, Secretary of State Clinton
In the pre-departure State Department briefing  on Secretary Clinton's current Asia trip, the Senior State Department official (unidentified during the briefing, but probably Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell who did indeed meet up with her in Beijing) stated the following.
We believe that the full range of issues in U.S.-China relations will be discussed, from developments in Asia, developments on the Korean Peninsula, issues associated with peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region. We will touch on and deal with challenges associated with the South China Sea. We’ll talk about Iran, obviously developments in Syria, Afghanistan – the full range
The Secretary of State, top diplomat, in dealing with conflicts and disputes, relies, yes, upon her considerable personal  skills of negotiation,  but also upon treaties, memoranda of understanding,  and agreements between and among countries.   We watched her long hard slog, almost from the day she encountered Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, through the hard work their teams put in to formulate the New START Treaty, to the day she quietly, and unofficially showed up on Capitol Hill in December 2010 to celebrate the ratification of that treaty for which she had fought so hard.

Similarly, in this final year of her tenure at State, we have seen her lobby for the ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty (L.O.S.T.).  On May 23 of this year we saw her argue before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that joining the convention was "urgent."   It was not about achieving a victory for Hillary Clinton.  She never cares who gets the credit as long as the work gets done.  It was about leveling the international playing field.
  • The convention allows countries to claim sovereignty over their continental shelf far out into the ocean, beyond 200 nautical miles from shore. The relevant area for the United States is probably more than 1.5 times the size of Texas.
  • The second development concerns deep seabed mining, which takes place in that part of the ocean floor that is beyond any country’s jurisdiction....   So as long as the United States is outside the convention, our companies are left with two bad choices – either take their deep sea mining business to another country or give up on the idea. Meanwhile, as you heard from Senator Kerry and Senator Lugar, China, Russia, and many other countries are already securing their licenses under the convention to begin mining for valuable metals and rare earth elements.
  • The third development that is now urgent is the emerging opportunities in the Arctic. As the area gets warmer, it is opening up to new activities such as fishing, oil and gas exploration, shipping, and tourism. This convention provides the international framework to deal with these new opportunities.
  • The fourth development is that the convention’s bodies are now up and running. The body that makes recommendations regarding countries’ continental shelves beyond 200 nautical miles is actively considering submissions from over 40 countries without the participation of a U.S. commissioner.
She argued eloquently that day for us to take our seat at the table where maritime disputes worldwide will be settled diplomatically and scoffed at and refuted predictions that this treaty would put our military on black helicopters wearing blue helmets (the argument we have been hearing from the Tea Party since they first co-opted the Gadsden flag) .  Regardless of her logical arguments and the clear benefits of ratification, L.O.S.T.  was killed on July 17 of this year perhaps never to be revived.  Here is how it was deep-sixed.
Tuesday, Jul 17, 2012 05:22 PM EDT

Tea Party torpedoes Law of Sea Treaty

How the far right managed to kill a naval treaty that nearly everyone else supported

What if there were a piece of legislation in Congress today that had broad bipartisan support along with the strong backing of the military and the most powerful business interests in the country? That seems almost unheard of in today’s polarized world, so it should sail through Congress, right? Well, 34 senators, led by Tea Party hero Jim DeMint of South Carolina, effectively killed it last night. The Law of the Sea Treaty (which goes by the unfortunate acronym LOST) would codify a host of international navigational, territorial and mineral exploration rules that the country has abided by since the Reagan administration. But a faction of Tea Party senators have secured enough opposition to stop the treaty before it even makes it to the Senate floor.
Read more >>>>
Fast-forward to yesterday and the Chinese press greeting our top diplomat.

Hillary Clinton arrives in China to stinging personal attacks in state media

September 5, 2012
US and China remain at impasse over Syria and tension persists over long-running territorial wrangle in South China Sea
Personal and stinging attacks in the state media heralded the US secretary of state‘s arrival in Beijing. “Many people in China dislike Hillary Clinton,” said an editorial in the state-run Global Times. “She has brought new and extremely profound mutual distrust between the mainstream societies of the two countries.” Such stringent remarks were extremely unusual on the eve of a visit by a US secretary of state, noted Shi Yinhong, an expert on the bilateral relationship.
While Clinton’s press conference with Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi was more civil, it suggested no sign of movement on key issues. The two countries remain at an impasse over Syria and tension persists over the complicated and long-running territorial wrangle in the South China Sea, involving China and numerous other regional powers.
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Hillary Clinton targeted in anti-U.S. Chinese editorials

  • By Alexander Abad-Santos
Hillary Clinton met with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing Tuesday. Hillary Clinton met with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing Tuesday. Jim Watson/AP
Hillary Clinton arrived in China on Tuesday, in what's likely to be her last trip there as Secretary of State, but that milestone didn't stop China's state-run media outlets from printing scathing editorials about her and the U.S.'s growing unpopularity in the country. "Many Chinese people do not like Hillary Clinton, her personal antipathy to the Chinese public ..." reads (via Google translation) an editorial in China's nationalist newspaper Global Times, entitled "Secretary Clinton: the person who deeply reinforces US-China mutual suspicion." The editorial goes on to read (via a translation from NBC News's Ed Flanagan), "She makes the Chinese public dislike and be wary of the United States, which does not necessarily serve U.S. foreign policy interests." Well, that's pretty blunt. What upsets the Chinese government has been President Obama's newfound focus on the Asia-Pacific region, which means more attention is paid toward China and its territorial disputes in the South China Sea. And Clinton, despite enjoying her highest popularity ratings stateside, has become the bullseye for unhappy Chinese nationalists even if she won't be continuing her role as the country's top diplomat--Clinton has said she was retiring at the end of this year. (We probably shouldn't tell them about the VP rumors.) Xinhua, the country's state-run news service was at least bit more diplomatic about being undiplomatic, with an editorial that read (via a New York Times translation), "The United States should stop its role as a sneaky troublemaker sitting behind some nations in the region and pulling strings."
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Hillary Clinton is accustomed to  attacks.  It is doubtful that any of this bothered her on a personal level, but the fact that the U.S. has no commissioner at the Law of the Sea convention makes it far more difficult for her to negotiate in favor of our friends and partners in maritime disputes with China over territorial rights.  We have no voice in this international body.  So as China expands its borders and sea shelf while disparaging our top diplomat and sneering at her efforts, we have the Tea Party to thank.  They effectively trapped her in a lobster-cage.