Articles in Diplomacy News
International boundaries in oceanic space are often complex and disputed, especially in areas that abound in hydrocarbons. Boundaries that extend across lakes are usually less contentious and convoluted, but that is not always the case. Consider, for example, Lake Malawi (also known as Lake Nyasa) in southern Africa, widely considered to be the world’s eighth largest lake. As can be seen on the map, the central portion of this lake is evenly divided between Malawi and Mozambique, yet Malawi controls two islands that are well within the territorial waters of its neighbor, Chizumulu and Likoma, which together constitute a Malawian exclave district, with a population of some 13,000.
Recent African news reports often focus on investments and diplomatic initiatives undertaken by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Yet when one scans the news from The Gambia, the PRC figures little, whereas the Republic of China (Taiwan) looms large. Recent stories in the Gambian press have focused on Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs awarding scholarship packages to 27 Gambian college students to study on the island country, …
The on-going Australian asylum-seeking controversy has recently spread to the Indonesian island of Java. On August 20, the Jakarta Post announced the arrest of “28 illegal immigrants hiding in a forested coastal area of South Cianjur, West Java. The immigrants were part of a large group of asylum seekers from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran who were heading to Christmas Island.”
While known mostly for its isolation and repressive government, Turkmenistan has some of the largest natural gas reserves in the world. In hopes of increasing gas exports, the country will start promoting its TAPI pipeline project at international shows in London, Singapore, and New York.
Representatives from China and seven Portuguese-speaking countries—Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal and East Timor—recently met in Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia (in China), to discuss trade and investment opportunities. The meeting took place under the auspices of the so-called Macau Forum (officially designated as the “Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation between China and Portuguese-speaking Countries”), which has been meeting since 2003. The organization is widely regarded as a Chinese diplomatic success that has paid substantial economic dividends
Mounting tension in the South China Sea has been amply documented in the mainstream media. However, reporting often does not adequately cover the situation’s geographical complexity, as the geopolitical tussles work out differently for the Sea’s various archipelagos, isolated islands, and reefs.
After much wrangling, Tajikistan and Russia recently agreed to a 49-year extension of Russia’s military base in the strategically situated Central Asian country. The roughly 6,000 Russian troops stationed in the country, constituting Moscow’s largest foreign deployment, will thus remain in place. As Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin framed the issue, “The forces of NATO in Afghanistan are not eternal but Russia will be an eternal partner of these countries and if, God forbid, the situation deteriorates for security and the people of the countries, they will remember Russia.”
Indonesia, a relatively poor, highly populated country that is diplomatically independent and active, has recently agreed to several new joint military efforts with the United States, Australia, and China.
Representatives from Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan recently met in Khartoum to discuss Ethiopia’s controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, currently under construction on the Blue Nile River. The governments of Sudan and especially Egypt are concerned that the dam will reduce the flow of water into their countries. In response, both states have threatened to suspend their activities in the Nile Basin Initiative, a co-operative framework for sustainably managing the flow of the Nile that currently involves Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and the DR Congo. To avoid such a scenario, future meetings are planned
In early May, the European Union welcomed the resumption of railroad freight traffic through the break-away state of Transnistria*, sandwiched between Ukraine and Moldova. Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, described the event as “a crucial step forward for restoring confidence between the sides to the Transnistrian issue.”
Tensions between Spain and Argentina have recently mounted. Last fall, Spain began to complain that its fishing fleets operating around the Falkland/Malvinas islands were being harassed by the Argentine Navy, despite having licenses from the Falkland Islands government—a government that Argentina does not recognize. More recently, Argentina nationalized the oil company YPF, a subsidiary of the Spanish company Repsol, angering both Spanish investors and European Union officials and provoking reprisals.
Japanese newspapers are reporting that the United States will be moving roughly 8,000 marines off of the island of Okinawa, reassigning them to Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Hawaii, and Northern Australia. The massive U.S. military presence on Okinawa—with fourteen bases covering eighteen percent of the island—has long been a highly controversial matter. Relocating the marines will be an expensive proposition, but much of the bill will be paid by Japan.
The headline of an April 15 article in the Washington Post might strike many readers as slightly absurd: “Philippine president says his country won’t start war with China over disputed shoal.” Although the Philippines is hardly in a position to challenge China militarily, the remarks of President Benigno Aquino III did help the country save face as it pulled a warship out of the disputed waters and allowed several Chinese fishing vessels to return home with their catch.
Relations between Colombia and Venezuela have been so tense over the past decade that it sometimes seemed that the two countries were at the verge of war. Such tensions, however, have recently diminished to the point where the neighboring states are now discussing building a pipeline to transport Venezuelan crude oil to Colombian ports, a project enthusiastically backed by China.
Yet again, talks on Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara collapsed without agreement. Representatives from Morocco, the independence-seeking Polisario Front, Algeria, and Mauritania recently met in for three days in a suburb or New York; in the end, “‘Each party continued to reject the proposal of the other as the sole basis for future negotiations, while reiterating their willingness to work together to reach a solution.”