June 13, 2011

This Weekend's News: South China Sea Resources and Beyond

The first thing you need to see if you missed this weekend's news is this Mike Luckovich cartoon. Amazing.

You all know by now that tensions between China and Vietnam began rising quickly a few weeks back, sparked by a Chinese vessel cutting underwater cables being used by a PetroVietnam vessel in the South China Sea. By coincidence, I was just visiting China and Vietnam both for research, and one question I started hearing in earnest while in Vietnam was what the United States will do if conflict ensues over potentially resource-rich disputed territory. Financial Times reported Sunday that "Vietnam has called on the US and other nations to help resolve the escalating territorial disputes in the resource-rich South China Sea." It appears that Taiwan may be preparing to send more assets into the disputed region as well.

The ever-shifting winds of international public opinion on nuclear energy topped the news this weekend. I didn't see major news news, just plenty of coverage of recent changes. On Saturday, The Washington Post had a long piece on German Chancellor Merkel's committment to get rid of her country's nuclear power in the next decade. (See also events list below.) It appears that a growing number of experts are projecting that the need for fossil fuels to fill Germany's gigawatt gap may be greater than political leaders are currently proclaiming, with implications for their goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The New York Times also reported on new protests over the nuclear situation in Japan as the country continues its efforts to recover from March's triple disasters. Nuclear trends in both of these countries will influence nuclear energy trends worldwide, but these two are particularly important to watch for the United States given their status as close allies. Their budgets and roles in energy tech trend-setting will influence our future relations.

In other news, Huffington Post report that "U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Saturday warned Africa of a creeping 'new colonialism' from foreign investors and governments interested only in extracting the continent's natural resources to enrich themselves and not the African people." And finally, Steve Mufson's overview of Libyan oil from Saturday's Post is a must read.

The Week Ahead

Monday at noon the Wilson Center holds "Scramble with a New Africa: Comparing Strategies and Policies for the Future of Africa," including a focus on resources that should be interesting given Sec. Clinton's speech above. Even better, my pal Marcel Vietor from Germany will be at the Wilson Center at 1:00 on Wednesday to discuss "European Energy Policy/ies in Transition: Internal and External Dimensions." He's a great energy expert, including on nuclear, and has been writing on this topic prolifically, so his insights will be worth hearing. And I'd be willing to bet that Admiral Roughead's talk on Thursday at CSIS, "A Global Navy in a Time of Change," may give a nod to energy, maritime resource issues and potentially even the growing maritime tensions in the South China Sea.