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Tom Clancy

Preface: Prelude to War

    Though the name may sound obscure, the Spratly Islands have been a cause of conflict in East Asia for quite some time. Sovereignty over all or part of this potentially resource-rich archipelago in the South China Sea is presently contested by Vietnam, China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Taiwan. Although the Manila Declaration by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 1992 promised to resolve this dispute peacefully, the nations involved have yet to arrive at a consensus about the future of this territory. In the past few months, tensions have mounted between the East Asian nations, and the need to have the United Nations serve as a mediating force has been suggested. At this point in time, many of the countries have stationed troops on the islands and some have begun to build their own infrastructures, causing further disagreements.

    "The dispute over the Spratly Islands has served as a further impediment to healing many of the rifts existing within East Asia. This issue needs to be addressed on an international level before it escalates into higher forms of conflict. The Special Political and Decolonization Committee will attempt to consolidate the interests of all parties involved and hopefully diminish a source of growing regional conflict in the world."

    -The New American

    "China's aggressive search for oil near the Spratly Islands of Vietnam's coast has become the most serious threat of war along China's frontier."

    Jim Landers, The Dallas Morning News

    Chinese leader dies, power struggle anticipated

    July 19, 1997

    Web posted at: 12:00 P.M. EST (1700 GMT)

    From Beijing bureau chief Julie Meyer

    BEIJING (TCN)-Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping died today at the age of ninety-two. Having suffered multiple strokes in the previous two years, Deng had reportedly been living in a military hospital for the past eighteen months and was said to have been barely able to speak for much of that time.

    Deng's successor, President Jiang Zemin, was chosen by Deng himself over a year ago, yet could not assert full leadership rights until Deng, as "paramount leader," had died. Now that Deng is dead, many experts feel that Jiang's position will be challenged by his peers among the Chinese government, and that a power struggle will ensue.

    Among the suspected challengers to Jiang is Premier Li Peng, a Marxist conservative who played a major role in the quashing of the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations. Li is said to be intent on scaling back China's economic growth, which he feels to be unstable, should he take control.

    Another possible contender is Zhu Rongji, senior vice premier and the liberal economist responsible for much of China's economic growth under Deng. However, Zhu has alienated much of the Chinese bureaucracy with his infamous temper and acidic comments, and experts believe that he does not enjoy the support necessary to win the leadership battle.

    When asked for an opinion regarding the power shift in China, prominent Tufts University international relations professor and Asian affairs expert Adrian Mann stated that great "political instability" lay ahead and that "there is a very good chance that the power struggle may lead to a Soviet-style breakup of China," a view shared by many senior White House political advisers.

    The President, who is currently vacationing at Camp David, issued a statement earlier today saying that "the United States offers her sincere condolences to the people of China on the loss of their esteemed leader" and that "we have every confidence that the new Chinese leadership will assume office with the minimum of disturbance." When asked the President's position on the possible power struggle within the Chinese government, a White House aide stated that "the President is watching with great interest."

    United Fuels Corp. discovers oil, stock soars

    July 21, 1997

    Web posted at: 2:00 P.M. EST (1900 GMT)

    From New York financial correspondent Bill Mossette

    NEW YORK (TCNfn)-A spokesman for United Fuels Corporation stated today that the company had recently located a large and, until now, undiscovered oil deposit six miles from Mischief Reef, one of the Spratly Islands chain located in the South China Sea.

    The deposit is thought to be the largest of its type yet discovered, with a conservative estimated yield of close to one trillion barrels. This information caused a massive surge in United Fuels stock, which peaked today at eighty-nine dollars a share, up nearly 200 percent. Experts predict that the stock will continue to skyrocket if the find is fully substantiated.

    However, many financial advisers are wary of investing in United on the basis of this new find, due to the political instability surrounding the area in which the oil lies. The Spratly Islands have long been contested, with China, Vietnam, Taiwan and other neighboring countries all claiming sovereignty, Wall Street experts say that the oil find will be contested by the governments of the aforementioned countries, among others, and that it may be years before such disagreements may be resolved. During this time, of course, United Fuels Corporation will be unable to drill in the area.

    Nevertheless, United has already started to build a drilling platform at the site, staging construction from the prospecting ship that located the enormous oil deposit, Benthic Adventure.

    Coup in China, Li takes control

    July 23, 1997

    Web posted at: 3:00 p.m. EST (2000 GMT)

    From Washington chief correspondent Michael Flasetti

    WASHINGTON (TCN)-In a stunning development, Premier Li Peng has staged a coup d'etat and gained control of the Chinese government in the early hours of this morning. Aided in the coup by General Yu Quili, leader of the so-called Petroleum Faction, Li has apparently ordered the arrest of Jiang Zemin, president and successor to the late Deng Xiaoping, and Zhu Rongji, senior vice premier. Both political rivals in the struggle for control, Jiang and Zhu have yet to be located and are presumed in hiding.

    Li, a conservative with broad support from both the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese military, issued a statement to the effect that Deng's liberal economic policies were causing ruin within China, destroying the socialist ideals that the Communist Party has been striving to maintain. He also stated that rampant capitalism and greater economic ties to the West threaten to undermine the "national focus of China" and that "it was time that the people of China stood together in a common cause." Precisely what that cause is remains to be seen.

    However, Taiwan has requested aid from the United Nations, fearing that Li may attempt an invasion of the country, which China has regarded as a renegade province since 1949. If such an invasion was to take place, it would probably be masterminded by General Yu Quili, the one-armed army veteran who led the Petroleum Faction, a group of engineers that developed the rich Daqing oil field in Manchuria with the aid of then Chairman Mao Ze-dong.

    The Petroleum Faction wielded enormous power over China's economic policy until Deng consolidated his own power base within the government in the early 1980s. Now, with Li and other allies, including Wang Tao, chairman of the China National Petroleum Corporation, General Yu seems poised to take a place among the executive elite of China.

    East Asia political expert Adrian Mann commented today on the current radical shift of government power. "Energy production seems to have become the engine for a neoconservative upheaval in China. Politically, those who control the means of energy production can control the country. It's a very strong position." Doubly strong, Dr. Mann went on to argue, in a country with a well-documented shortage of raw power.

    The White House has so far been unresponsive to the developments in China, as the President wishes to confer with UN chiefs before making any official statement, which is expected later today. Sources report that the President will need full support from the UN before action, if any, is to be taken, in light of America's historically rocky relationship with China.

    President reacts to Chinese coup, UN sanctions expected

    July 23, 1997

    Web posted at: 12:00 p.m. EST (1700 GMT)

    From Washington chief correspondent Michael Flasetti

    WASHINGTON (TCN)-After conferring with other permanent members of the UN Security Council for most of the day, the President made a statement condemning the Chinese coup, led by Li Peng. In addition, both the U.S. and UN have officially refused to acknowledge the new Chinese government, demanding instead that Jiang Zemin, chosen by ex-paramount leader Deng to be his successor, be restored as China's new leader. However, many believe Jiang to be dead, killed by troops under Peng during the coup. Senior vice premier Zhu Rongji is also missing.

    Li Peng responded to the demands by stating that both Jiang and Zhu were wanted for "crimes against the state" and that he would not give up his new position, which is supported by the leaders of China's industrial-military complex. He went on to decry the UN mandates as yet more "interferist Western meddling in China's interior affairs" and that China would not submit to any of the UN's requests.


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