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Nuclear submarines will not deter China from conflict with Taiwan

Taiwan

Nuclear submarines will not deter China from conflict with Taiwan, but Australia has an alternative arsenal

Six days after China applied to join the CPTTP, Taiwan submitted its own application.

For an emerging superpower prone to petulant outbursts and coercive retaliation, China’s initial response to the recent announcement of the new three-way security pact between Australia, the United States and Britain seemed surprisingly tepid.

Hours after the trio unveiled their “forever partnership”, known as Aukus, China formally requested that it be allowed to join an 11-member Asia-Pacific trade grouping, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

This was an odd move by China, whose application requires the consent of the grouping’s members, which include Australia. In recent years, China has responded to previous perceived slights from Canberra by imposing economic sanctions worth $20bn and freezing ministerial contacts.

Now, it was effectively seeking a favour from Canberra, even though Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, had just announced plans to buy nuclear submarines and signalled that he was seriously preparing for the possibility that US-China tensions will spill into war.

But China’s application to join the trade pact was carefully timed. It allowed China to demonstrate its commitment to global free trade and to contrast its approach with that of the US, which withdrew from the grouping.

More significantly, China’s application was primarily designed to head off a long-awaited bid by Taiwan to join. China, which regards Taiwan as a breakaway province, regularly tries to prevent other states dealing with Taiwan at an official level.

Taiwan’s chief trade negotiator John Deng told reporters: “If China joins first, Taiwan’s membership case should be quite risky. This is quite obvious.”

This wrangling over the CPTTP attracted less attention than the Aukus announcement, but it highlights a crucial feature of the frightening rise in tensions between China and the US.

China, in its quest for “reunification” with Taiwan, is playing on two separate battlefields.

First, and most blatantly, it is expanding its military at a frantic pace and using its air force and navy to intimidate Taiwan. In the past week, for instance, China has set an almost daily record for its fighter jet interventions into Taiwan’s air defence zone.

Last Friday, on China’s national day, it sent 38 planes towards Taiwan; on Saturday, it was 39; on Monday, it was 56. The US, a close backer and arms supplier of Taiwan, described China’s flights as “provocative”.

But China is also operating on a separate front. It is trying to isolate Taiwan on the world stage and to ensure that Taiwan’s status is downgraded in international diplomatic and economic arenas. So, as Morrison was still speaking to the Australian media about Aukus and submarines, the Chinese commerce minister wrote to the New Zealand government – which holds formal documents relating to the CPTTP – to join the group.

The lesson for Australia is that, as US-China ties deteriorate, it needs to avoid picking the wrong battlefield.

As the gap between China’s military and Australia’s widens, it is unlikely that Australia’s capability – even with a fleet of nuclear submarines, supplied by its Aukus partners – will determine the balance of military power in the Indo-Pacific.

Despite being the world’s 12th biggest-military spender, Australia’s annual defence budget is now just 10% of China’s.

Australia plans to have the first of its eight nuclear submarines in the water by the late 2030s. China, which has the world’s largest navy, currently has a fleet of about 62 submarines, including 12 that are nuclear-powered.

By 2040, it is due to have 26 nuclear submarines. The US currently has 68 submarines; all are nuclear-powered. Australia’s submarines and other forces can be used for a variety of purposes, including defence of the Australian mainland – but, in the terrifying case of a standoff over Taiwan, they will not be decisive.

Yet, on the other battlefield, Australia’s capabilities are more imposing. In the arena of international trade and diplomacy, Australia, which is the world’s 13th largest economy and – historically – a committed supporter of strong international institutions, has genuine clout.

Australia has worked to create and strengthen bodies such as Apec, which includes China and Taiwan, and the G20, which includes China only.

The CPTTP exists largely because Australia, along with Japan, worked to save it after Donald Trump pulled out in 2017. Now China is seeking to join.

The Chinese embassy – which famously released a 14-point list of grievances with Canberra – has written to the Australian parliament to make its case, saying China’s membership would “yield large economic benefits”.

Australia responded hesitantly, insisting that China should not be allowed to join the CPTPP until it meets its international trade obligations and lifts its current sanctions on Australian exports such as beef, wine and barley.

Australia will hold further sway as it considers whether Taiwan should be allowed entry. China says Taiwan should not be allowed to join the grouping or any other official organisation.

Australia should deploy its clout in the international arena carefully. It can try to encourage an easing of US-China tensions and to discourage provocations.

Taiwan is warning that war is looming. But Australia will be able to do little to alter the course of an actual conflict.

Instead, it can join others to deliver a strong message to China about the potential cost of an attempt to take Taiwan by force.

Australia’s yet-to-be-commissioned submarines will not dissuade Beijing from military intervention, but it has an alternative arsenal that currently seems to be more successful in demanding China’s attention.

Jonathan Pearlman is editor of Australian Foreign Affairs.

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Osun LP Guber Candidate, Lasun Rejoins PDP

Yusuf Lasun, a former deputy speaker of the house of representatives, has rejoined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The governor of Osun, Ademola Adeleke made the announcement on Wednesday at the PDP presidential rally in Osogbo, the Osun capital.

“The former deputy speaker has joined the PDP family. He used to be in PDP, but today, he has decided to come and join the PDP family,” the governor said.

Lasun, who was present at the rally, hailed supporters after a terse remark.

Lasun had contested the 2022 governorship election in Osun on the platform of the Labour Party (LP).

Adeleke came first in the election; Gboyega Oyetola of the APC placed second; Kehinde Atanda of the Action Democratic Party (ADP) came third; while Lasun came a distant fourth.

He was a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) until February when he resigned from the party after losing the party’s governorship ticket.

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I Can’t Contest For President Again; It Will Diminish Me- Jonathan

Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s former president, has said he will never contest for the Presidency of the country again.

The Ex-president said it would amount to diminishing himself if he should decide to begin to lobby people and campaign for election again.

Jonathan said this in an interview published in a book, ‘My Time As Chaplain In Aso Rock,” presented to the public on Tuesday.

The book written by Nathaniel Bivan contains the accounts of the Chaplain of the Aso Rock Villa Chapel during the Jonathan administration, Obioma Onwuzurumba.

“If you wake up tomorrow and see that I am President again, that means there may have been circumstances beyond my control. But not to go and pick one form and go and start lobbying people and running for campaigns; I can’t do that again. If I do that, I will diminish myself,” the former President said.

Jonathan said he enjoyed the drama that characterised the rumour earlier in the year that he had purchased a nomination form of the All Progressives Congress to enable him to contest for the party’s presidential ticket.

Ahead of the June 2022 APC presidential primary, a group, Nomadic Pastoralists and Almajirai Community, led by Ibrahim Abdullahi, purchased the N100m nomination and expression of interest forms in Jonathan’s name.

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NMDPRA Assures Nigerians Of Steady Fuel Supply

The Nigeria Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) says the queues at filling stations will soon disappear as marketers commence massive loading of petroleum products.

Mr Ahmed Farouk, Chief Executive of NMDPRA, gave the assurance during a stock monitoring exercise within depots in Lagos on Wednesday.

The NMDPRA boss led staff of the Authority to NIPCO, Total, Aiteo, OVH, Conoil, 11 Plc and HOGL depots in Apapa for on the spot assessment.

Farouk said the stock taking exercise was to ensure availability and effective distribution of petroleum products across the nation to reduce queues at filling stations.

“The essence of this exercise is to ensure that the entire states are wet with petroleum products to avoid scarcity and panic buying by commuters during this period.

“As an Authority, we are doing everything within our powers to make sure that there are enough petroleum products in the system to help alleviate the sufferings of commuters.

“With the issue of scarcity across the nation, l found it necessary that NMDPRA come and ensure that there is even distribution of petroleum products across the nation, especially petrol.

“I am comfortable with the the load-out of petrol across the depots.

“The current distribution of petrol across the nation will address the issue of tightness in the market,” he said.

The NMDPRA boss said all depots in Apapa had products and were loading massively to Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and other states.

He said three vessels were also discharging petrol at Apapa jetty to MOMAN, DAPPMAN and other depots.

Farouk urged Nigerians not to panic and avoid panic buying, while assuring of availability of sufficient products at filling stations across the country.

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