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W. Fasslabend: Address to Peace Summit 2023, Session V-Think Tank 2022 Forum

From the position of a medium sized landlocked country in Europe, why is the situation east of the Asian continent, Western Pacific, so important even for Europeans? For me, the most important reason is because in this region, you will find three global hotspots: North Korea, Taiwan, and South China Sea. They are probably the hottest hot spots you can find decisively for questions of peace or war in the coming years.

North Korea

In North Korea, the situation there is escalating. President Kim Jong Un is producing more missiles and more nuclear warheads. He is producing missiles with longer range and even satellite-based systems. The only country that really is backing him is China and maybe also Russia. Only those two neighbors. All the others are more or less keeping their distance.

Taiwan

What is the situation in Taiwan? 2022 and 2023 have been the most decisive questions in the development of this situation. Why? It started with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit in August 2022 and was followed by a Czech parliamentary delegation visit in March 2023. There was an extremely harsh reaction from the Chinese side. Of course, you can discuss whether this was very wise or not, but it triggered stark opposition from Beijing.

China organized massive war games, declaring six areas around the island as live-fire zones, and it tried to exercise an invasion. It was for the first time that we had a real war game around Taiwan. This certainly is an alarming signal. On the other side, what was the reaction? President Joe Biden said that the U.S. would respond militarily to a Chinese attempt to take over Taiwan by force. The American think tank, The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), developed a theoretical war game, four scenarios with 24 variations. What would happen if China would try to invade Taiwan? We are currently in a situation where both sides are either in reality or theoretically, developing war games. This is certainly an alarming signal.

South China Sea

The third hot spot is the South China Sea. Every day there are escalating tensions between the vessels of China and the neighboring countries because of the increase of surveillance operations in the area.

What can be the reactions? What can be the means in order to secure peace and stability? China can influence North Korea, probably the only country that has a real basis to do so. Whether this will be easy, I do not want to speculate. Certainly, China must understand that the West will absolutely not accept China’s goal to reunite by military force. Taiwan was never under control of the communist government in Beijing. It is completely not acceptable if they are forced by military means to unite if it against the will of the people.

The third one is also the South China Sea. This is not a question only between China and its neighbors. You can discuss if historically speaking whether the islands belong to China, but there is already the decision by the UN International Court of Justice that says very clearly that China cannot claim an area of 3 million km² as their territorial waters in South China Sea.

This means that China, the rising power that wants to overtake globally, does not follow the rules of the UN community of nations. This is not acceptable. We have to fight for the freedom of the seas and free navigation because this is a right for everybody and is necessary for global trade, and if we want to have a stable global community in the future. We must stand up and declare it clearly and openly.

Thank you very much.

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