Indo-Pacific Geopolitics Newsletter 04/03/2023

RADAR SWEEP Geopolitics Newsletter March 27 – April 3, 2023 Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen begins trip to Latin America and


Geopolitics Newsletter March 27 – April 3, 2023

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen begins trip to Latin America and the U.S.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen kicked off her long-awaited ten-day trip to Latin America on March 29. She will be visiting the three remaining countries of Central and South America that still recognize Taiwan. Under the One-China-Policy, countries must choose whether to recognize Taipei or Beijing—a choice that almost all nations have already made in favor of Beijing. Given China’s aggressive, investment-led diplomacy, even those few remaining friends of Taiwan are likely to switch to Beijing in the long run, as Honduras did only recently.

Tsai shortly visited New York before flying to Guatemala and then Belize. She is expected to still visit Paraguay, before stopping over in Los Angeles on her way back. Beijing has publicly warned Tsai not to meet with U.S. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy. Nonetheless, the meeting is likely to go ahead, though no date has been publicly confirmed. China is likely to react by issuing additional threats of war and staging military demonstrations of might, perhaps similar to the drills that followed last year’s visit to Taiwan by then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s former President Ma Ying-jeou—a member of the opposition KMT—started his trip across China. He became the first former or current Taiwanese president to visit China. While in Nanjing, Ma stated, “we are all Chinese.” This opinion is no longer shared by most people in Taiwan, but it is staunchly defended by Beijing, which insists that Taiwan must one day be unified with the People’s Republic. While Ma is not expected to meet with senior Chinese leaders, his trip is likely meant to show his party’s ability to hold a dialogue with Beijing, should it take power in next year’s presidential elections. While President Tsai has previously called for dialogue, Beijing refuses to talk to her administration.

Taiwan US

President of Taiwan Tsai Ing-wen waves near the boarding gate, March 29, 2023 | Photo: Ann Wang/Reuters

Indo-Pacific Geopolitics

North Korea unveiled new nuclear warhead Mar. 28

As the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Nimitz arrived in South Korea for military drills, Pyongyang unveiled improved nuclear warheads, which will further boost its arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons. The new warheads—called Hwasan 31s— appear to be a step forward in miniaturization, which might also be used for intercontinental ballistic missiles. Read more [EXTERNAL]

Honduran president announced her intent to visit China Mar. 29

Honduran President Xiomara Castro announced her intention to visit Beijing soon. This follows Honduras establishing formal diplomatic relations with Beijing and its severing of ties with Taipei on March 26. Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize are the only Central American countries left that recognize Taiwan. Read more [EXTERNAL]

US-led anti-submarine military exercise concluded Mar. 30

The annual anti-submarine military exercise—comprising the navies of the U.S., Canada, India, Japan, and South Korea—took place near the U.S. Air Force base in Guam. This year’s exercise has taken on significance in light of deteriorating maritime security in and around the South China Sea. Read more

U.S. to open embassy in Vanuatu Mar. 31

Washington announced that it will open an embassy in Vanuatu, thereby further strengthening the U.S.’s presence in the Pacific and countering China’s growing influence in the region. This move follows the recent reopening of the U.S. embassy in the Solomon Islands. Read more [EXTERNAL]


Cambodian FM Prak Sokhonn concluded his trip to Morocco Mar. 28

Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn met with Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita to discuss strengthening bilateral relations and to sign agreements on trade, education, and tourism. Next, Sokhonn left for Egypt to meet with its foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry. Read more.

Embassy of Azerbaijan opened in Israel Mar. 29

The Embassy of Azerbaijan opened in Tel Aviv. The event was presided over by Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Baymarov, who also met with Israeli leaders including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog. Following the embassy’s opening, Azerbaijan will likely prioritize strengthening relations with Israel. Read more.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang addressed the 2023 Boao Forum Mar. 30

The forum–held in Boao, on the Chinese island of Hainan–consisted of seminars on international crises for cooperation and peacekeeping. Beijing will likely use the forum to accelerate diplomatic relations with guest nations. Li invited Malaysia, Singapore, and Spain to make diplomatic visits to the Chinese capital after the conference. Read more.

U.S. VP Kamala Harris concluded Africa tour Apr. 2

US Vice President Kamala Harris’ nine-day tour of Africa concluded in Zambia after also having visited Ghana and Tanzania. Her trip was aimed at strengthening relations across sectors such as trade, climate adaptation, food security, democratic resilience, and cybersecurity. Africa will likely remain a contested space for influence between the U.S., China and Russia in the coming years. Read more

National Security

SCOs national security advisers met in India Mar. 29

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s (SCO) National Security Advisers Meeting was held in New Delhi. India, which also hosts the G20 this year, has chaired the meeting of the SCO’s eight members: India, China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Pakistan. While the format is meant to enhance security in the region and serve as a counterweight to the U.S. and its Western allies, but instead has focused more on loose cooperation and exchange. Read more

Lukashenko delivered state of the nation address Mar. 31

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko delivered his state of the nation address. The hours-long speech, which focused on national security and Western aggression, came after a recent announcement by Russian President Vladimir Putin that Belarus would host Russian tactical nuclear weapons to counter NATO’s expansion. During the address, Lukashenko mentioned that Russian strategic nuclear weapons might also be deployed in his country. Read more

Spanish PM and Chinese president met in Beijing  Mar. 31

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, where they discussed prospects for peace in Ukraine. Sanchez, who praised some aspects of China’s 12-point peace plan for Ukraine, also urged Xi to talk directly to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. However, Xi is unlikely to follow this advice in the near term. Read more

Finance, Economics and Technology

Alibaba announced a division into six companies Mar. 28

The Chinese tech giant announced that it would split into six independent entities. While the move is officially intended to reinvigorate the business, many believe that it is linked to Beijing’s crackdown on large tech firms. Read more [EXTERNAL]

CPTPP members agreed to U.K.s accession Mar. 30

The eleven members of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) have agreed to the U.K.’s joining. The U.K.’s accession to the CPTPP, which includes, among others, Japan, Australia, Singapore, and Mexico, is expected to boost trade and further integrate Britain’s economy with the Indo-Pacific. Read more [EXTERNAL]

Future Investment Initiative conference took place in Miami Mar. 30-31

The Saudi Arabia-sponsored two-day conference sought to bring together leaders of industry, civil society, government, and academia on modern societal challenges, such as climate change, public health, and global finance. The line-up included former Secretary of State Steve Mnuchin, who talked about California’s economy and the recent collapse of the Silicon Valley Bank. Read more

Politics and Society

Charles III postponed France visit amid pension protests Mar. 27

The visit was deemed unviable due to ongoing strikes throughout France. Millions of people have protested after French President Emmanuel Macron pushed legislation through parliament to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. Macron has refused to make concessions or change course. Read more.

German unions held a nationwide transport sector strike Mar. 27

German unions went on strike to demand higher wages to offset the impact of sustained inflation. The strikes are being led by the EVG and Verdi unions who request between 10.5% and 12% increases in monthly salaries for the workers they represent. Read more.

Scottish National Party leadership held election Mar. 27

Humza Yousaf was elected as the leader of the Scottish National Party, succeeding Nicola Sturgeon, who announced her resignation last month. Under Yousaf, Scotland will likely continue the trajectory forged by Sturgeon that emphasized the expression of Scottish nationalism through social reforms, including those related to gender identification and environmental justice. Read more.

Biden opened summit for democracy Mar. 29

U.S. President Joe Biden opened the summit with a pledge of $690 million in funding for a global democracy project. The summit was co-hosted by the Netherlands, Costa Rica, Zambia, and South Korea. South Korea will host next year’s summit. Read more [EXTERNAL]


EU reached an agreement to phase out combustion engine cars Mar. 28

EU states agreed to end the sale of combustion engine cars by 2035. The deal, which was reached after Germany dropped its veto, stipulates an end of the sale of combustion engine cars by 2035 and a reduction in CO2 emissions in cars sold by 2030. Read more [EXTERNAL]

U.S. and Japan signed trade deal on EV minerals Mar. 28

The U.S. and Japan have signed a trade deal on electric vehicle (EV) battery minerals. The deal is intended to boost trade in the vital minerals needed to enhance the two countries’ EV battery supply chains and to be a step toward decarbonization. Read more [EXTERNAL]

UN asked ICJ to rule on states’ climate obligationsMar. 29

The United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution that asks the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to give an advisory opinion on national obligations to combat climate change. While the ICJ’s opinion would not be legally binding, it could become a significant foundation for the UN and its member states for taking stronger action. Read more [EXTERNAL]


Russia to start training Belarus on nuclear weaponsApr. 3

Russia is expected to start training Belarusian crews on the nuclear weapons storage facility. The facility is currently under construction in Belarus and is expected to be completed by July, after which Belarus will host Russian tactical nuclear weapons. Read more [EXTERNAL]

Salaknib military exercise to concludeApr. 4

The U.S. Army Pacific and Philippine Army are concluding their three-week-long live-fire military drills. Over 3,000 soldiers took part in this year’s army-to-army exercise, aimed a bolstering bilateral military cooperation. Read more [EXTERNAL]

Tsai-McCarthy MeetingApr. 5

While no details have been officially confirmed, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen is expected to visit with U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in Los Angeles. China will likely respond with tough rhetoric and military drills. Read more [EXTERNAL]

Macron and von der Leyen to visit ChinaApr. 4-8

French President Emmanuel Macron and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will both meet with their Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Beijing. They will likely try to persuade Xi to help bring about peace in Ukraine and improve relations between China and Europe. Read more [EXTERNAL]

Former Taiwanese President to conclude China tripApr. 7

Taiwan’s former President Ma Ying-jeou will have spent 12 days in various cities across China, although he is not expected to visit Beijing. This highly symbolic trip is likely to serve his opposition KMT in its bid to regain power in Taiwan’s presidential elections scheduled for early next year. Read more [EXTERNAL]

Japan holds local government electionsApr. 9

The incumbent Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his Liberal Democratic Party are facing a litmus test with Japan’s local government elections. Despite economic woes, Kishida’s overall popularity has risen, likely due to his tough stance on Ukraine and on strengthening Japan’s security. Read more [EXTERNAL]


Contributions by: David Song-Pehamberger and Madeline McQuillan