Celebration over the announcement of China’s first female astronaut was marred by reports that China supplied North Korea with missile launch vehicles, in violation of a UN embargo.
Top Stories for the week of June 15, 2012 for the People¡¯s Republic of China
North Korea missile launchers reportedly shipped from China
According to a Japanese media report published June 6, a Chinese firm shipped missile launch vehicles to North Korea in August, possibly violating a U.N. embargo. According to Asahi Shimbun, the Japanese newspaper that first reported the story, a Chinese company sent four TEL vehicles (TEL stands for transporter, erector, launcher) via a Cambodia-registered ship, which was tracked by American, Japanese, and South Korean spy satellites. Japanese authorities later inspected the ship and found a document detailing the cargo, including the vehicles. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin asserted that China has not violated any restrictions, and China claims the vehicles were to be used to carry lumber. TELs present a significant security risk because they would allow North Korea to transport long-range missiles throughout the country, making them more difficult to find and destroy. (Associated Press, Guardian, June 13; Voice of America, June 14)
China prepares to send its first woman into space
On June 12, China¡¯s state run newspaper, the China Daily, published a brief profile on Captain Wang Yaping and Major Liu Yang, ostensibly the top two contenders to be a part of China¡¯s first manned docking mission with its Tiangong-1 module. The announcement captured national attention, receiving 76,000 comments online and becoming the second most discussed topic on Sina¡¯s Weibo microblogging site. China¡¯s Tiangong-1 module is its first space laboratory module launched into orbit back in September 2011. China is now preparing its first manned docking mission with the module, which Captain Wang and/or Major Liu are expected to be a part of. Chinese authorities say the launch should happen sometime in mid-June. The mission is an important step towards China¡¯s aim of creating a working space station by 2020. (BBC, June 12; Wall Street Journal, June 13)
China detains 23 people in connection with gun bust involving a U.S. soldier
On June 13, China¡¯s Ministry of Public Security announced it had detained 23 individuals in connection with an international gun trafficking ring involving a US soldier. The ring was first discovered by Chinese customs officers in Shanghai last August when they found a Beretta 9-millimeter semiautomatic handgun hidden in a stereo speaker in a United Parcel Service (UPS) package. Chinese authorities contacted UPS and the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) who then traced the package to two Chinese nationals in New York. The investigation eventually led authorities to Sergeant Debose who had sold the Chinese nationals the guns and taught them how to erase the serial numbers. The arrests occurred on the same day Chinese police destroyed more than 100,000 illegal guns in a 150 cities in China. (The New York Times, June 12; China Digital Times, June 13)
Tensions grow between China, EU over airline emissions
Next year the European Union will begin charging all airlines for their carbon emissions on routes to and from Europe. In reaction the China Air Transport Association announced on June 13 that it would respond in kind to any penalties, including fining or impounding European aircrafts. Under orders from Beijing, Chinese airlines had previously ignored the March 31deadline to submit carbon emission data to the EU, citing violation of national sovereignty. The warning from the China Air Transport Association expresses the anger shared by many other major trading partners of Europe, including the United States, Russia, and India. China has also suspended deals with the European aircraft company Airbus, leading to fears of an escalating trade war. Airbus responded by issuing a statement in support of China¡¯s position and in opposition of the EU¡¯s tax scheme. (Forbes, Capital News, Journal of Commerce, June 13)
China refuses to issue visa for former Norwegian Prime Minister
On June 12, China refused to issue a visa for former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Bondevik to attend the World Council of Churches meeting in Nanjing, a move which many interpret as expressing Beijing¡¯s continued displeasure over the Norwegian Nobel Committee¡¯s decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo in 2010. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin remarked that Chinese citizens¡¯ visa applications are rejected every day and that the case should not be ¡°over-interpreted.¡± They also admitted that China-Norway relations are still strained and hinted that the Norwegian government should ¡°undo what it has done.¡± Liu Xiaobo, who is still imprisoned in China for advocating democracy is considered a criminal by Chinese officials, his 2010 award is seen as an insult to China. (China Daily, Voice of America, June 13)
Compiled by Emily Calvert and Robert Hinck, interns at the China Program.