Mixed reactions to Mattis, but South China Sea tensions diffuse slightly


Top politics and current affairs news for February 6, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina news roundup "Chinese troops in Afghanistan."

Combination of satellite photos shows Chinese-controlled North Island, part of the Paracel Islands group in the South China Sea, on February 15, 2017 (top) and on March 6, 2017. Planet Labs/Handout via REUTERS

  • China welcomes Mattis’s emphasis on South China Sea diplomacy / Reuters
    A recent buildup of U.S.-China tensions and anxiety among U.S. officials has diffused slightly following comments made during a visit to Japan by the new U.S. secretary of defense, Jim Mattis. Mattis affirmed a commitment to “exhaust all…diplomatic efforts” to resolve South China Sea issues, adding that “at this time, we do not see any need for dramatic military moves.” Nonetheless, Mattis’s remarks that the U.S. will continue to defend Japan’s position on the islands it claims to the east of China and will continue to support a missile defense system in South Korea frustrated the Chinese foreign ministry.
  • Senior Chinese health official to attend Vatican summit on organ trafficking / SCMP
    Reflecting China’s new push to voice opposition to organ trafficking (the practice of harvesting organs from death row prisoners was officially condoned up until 2015), and perhaps connected to recent efforts to establish diplomatic ties between China and the Catholic Church, a top Chinese health official will attend a Vatican summit on organ trafficking this week. For more background on controversial organ donation regulations in China, see this South China Morning Post report. For more on the recent unsteady outreach between Chinese and Vatican officials, see this Sinica Podcast and a follow-up Q&A with Ian Johnson, a veteran journalist and scholar of religious issues in China.