|US Treated “Very Poorly” By WTO, But We’re Not Pulling Out: Donald Trump
NDTV, June 30, 2018
President Donald Trump has denied that he is planning to withdraw US from the World Trade Organisation, but accused the global trade body of treating America “very badly”…”We’ve been treated very badly by the WTO…It’s a very, very unfair situation. When you look at the WTO, that’s where China emerged, when they joined the WTO,” Trump told reporters…Trump is a longtime critic of the WTO. He often complains that the world trade body is biased against US…The tariffs have also led to retaliation by US allies, including Canada and the European Union…”If you look at the European Union, it’s USD 150 billion deficit. If you look at China, it’s USD 375. If you take any country – look at Mexico, it’s USD 100 billion trade deficit…You look at Canada. Canada’s treated us poorly…but it’ll all work out,” he said (More).
|The world is pushing back in the South China Sea
Tuan N Pham
In recent weeks, there have been several commentaries reporting a temporary new norm in the South China Sea (SCS) — realpolitik’s triumph over moralpolitik and the rapid decline of regional US soft power. But current developments suggest otherwise. Years of ill-advised US acquiescence and accommodation (strategic patience and wishful thinking) in the SCS appear to be over for now…Many countries are now firmly pushing back against Chinese unilateral expansionism in the SCS…And at the 2018 Shangri-La Dialogue, the United States, India, Vietnam, France and the United Kingdom all spoke strongly against China’s assertive and destabilising actions in the SCS…The region and the world have come to the realisation that Beijing’s actions in the SCS are dangerously undermining the extant global order that China itself has benefited from (More).
|US secretary of state Pompeo to visit North Korea next week
The Irish Times, June 28, 2018
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo plans to travel to North Korea next week to discuss the country’s denuclearization plans, the Financial Times reported on Thursday, citing four people familiar with his plans. US officials said Mr Pompeo had cancelled a meeting with his Indian counterpart in Washington on July 6th in order to fly to Pyongyang, the newspaper reported. His visit would mark the first to North Korea since US president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held their June 12th summit in Singapore…On Wednesday, Mr Pompeo told lawmakers he was confident that North Korea understood the scope of the US desire for complete denuclearization as the two countries negotiate after the summit (More).
|The Belt and Road Bubble Is Starting to Burst
David G. Landry
In a sense, the Sicomines resources-for-infrastructure agreement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been just another underperforming deal in a country with no shortage of them. But it is also more than that — namely, a window into the flaws at the heart of Chinese international economic policy, which is already costing its economy dearly…At the turn of the century, the Chinese government started implementing its “Go Out” policy, which sought to incentivize domestic firms to look for business overseas…Through the Go Out policy and the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s firms have been economically and politically incentivized to invest in countries where they have little to no experience…Regardless of Chinese firms’ motives for undertaking such risky projects abroad, failed investments are now fixtures of China’s foreign investment portfolio (More).
|US defence chief James Mattis visits China as tensions simmer
The Straits Times, June 26, 2018
US Defence Secretary James Mattis arrived in Beijing on his first ever visit to China on Tuesday, aiming to find room for military cooperation as security tensions between the two superpowers edge higher…The Pentagon chief, who will also visit South Korea and Japan on a four-day visit to the region, arrives as the trade threats between Washington and Beijing intensified, with tariffs looming next week…At a strategic forum in Singapore three weeks ago, Mattis said Beijing’s deployment of high end weapons systems in the South China Sea was for the purposes of “intimidation and coercion”. The Chinese retorted that Mattis’ comments were “irresponsible”(More).
|Here Come the US-China Tariffs
It’s official: the U.S.-China trade war will kick off on July 6. That’s the date U.S. tariffs on a lengthy list of Chinese imports will take effect, with China’s retaliatory tariffs are expected to launch the same day…China’s response today also included a call for other countries to join together to oppose Trump’s trade moves. The idea of free-trade proponents joining together with China would have been unthinkable just a short while ago. Now, however, with Trump slapping tariffs on not only China but the European Union, Canada, and Japan, the idea doesn’t seem so far far-fetched….In other words, the United States and China are set to be locked into a vicious cycle of responding to each other’s moves to up the ante. Numerous rounds of negotiations – and one brief moment of “consensus” – have not been enough to forestall the trade war. Now it’s time to see who folds first (More).
|The Trump Kim Summit: Reality TV Or a New Era?
Three days after angering his six closest Western allies, President Trump embraced Asia’s most notorious dictator at a steamy resort in Singapore and heralded a “very special bond” in new relations between the United States and North Korea…“As hyped as the meeting was, the result is underwhelming,” Wendy Sherman, who was a top negotiator with North Korea in the Clinton and Obama Administrations…Trump gave Kim a “major concession” without equivalent reciprocal steps, Sherman added, by cancelling joint exercises with South Korea. After the Singapore summit, the temperamental President seems to be on better terms with a North Korean despot than a Canadian democrat (More).
|Vietnamese Protests an Opening for Chinese Territorial Interests
Richard C. Paddock
Anti-China protests erupted throughout Vietnam and more than 100 people were arrested late Sunday after demonstrators stormed a provincial government building east of Ho Chi Minh City, the local news media reported…Many Vietnamese harbor resentment against China, Vietnam’s northern neighbor, and were said to be angry about a measure that would allow the leasing of land to foreigners for 99 years in three special economic zones…The worst rioting occurred at a steel factory being built in Ha Tinh Province by a subsidiary of Taiwan’s giant Formosa Plastics Group, where the company employed thousands of laborers from mainland China. Protesters stopped buses, pulled off Chinese passengers and beat them. Four people were killed (More).
|Malaysia PM urges TPP ‘renegotiation’
The Jakarta Post, June 11, 2018
Malaysia’s newly-elected prime minister called Monday for the Trans-Pacific Partnership to be “renegotiated,” and urged protection for small countries in international trade. Malaysia, along with 10 other countries, pushed ahead with the TPP in March despite Donald Trump having yanked the United States out of the huge multilateral trade deal to pursue his “America First” agenda…The deal was pushed by former US president Barack Obama’s administration in part as a way to counter growing Chinese commercial power. It cuts tariffs and requires members to comply with a high level of regulatory standards in areas like labour law and environmental protection (More).
|The G7 summit looked like it was going okay. Then Trump got mad on Twitter
During the summit, Trump’s meetings with leaders from the other G7 members — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom, plus the European Union (which is not technically part of the G7 but participates) — were reportedly pretty tense and confrontational…Just hours after leaving the G7 (Group of Seven) summit in Quebec on Saturday, President Donald Trump abruptly retracted US support for a joint statement signed by every nation in the group and blasted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as “meek and mild.”… “We’re like the piggy bank that everybody’s robbing — and that ends,” said Trump…Trump was responding to a press conference during which Trudeau had promised to retaliate against Trump’s tariffs with tariffs of his own (More).
|In Mahathir’s Malaysia, Japan is back amid doubts over Chinese funding
The Asahi Shimbun, June 10, 2018
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is set to woo investors and offer business deals during a trip to Japan that starts on Sunday, as he looks to cover a gaping debt hole and shift the country away from dependence on Chinese investments. The visit marks his first foreign trip after returning to power in a shock election result last month, and indicates a shift back to the 92-year-old’s Look East policy to strengthen ties with east Asia, especially Japan…It is also seen as a sign of the Southeast Asian country’s move away from China, which contentiously pumped billions of dollars into the scandal-tainted previous Najib Razak administration…Japan is Malaysia’s largest foreign direct investment contributor at $13 billion last year (More).
|Myanmar Military Targets Other Ethnic Groups After Driving Rohingya Out
Jon Emont and Myo Myo
Just after the campaign against the Rohingya, Myanmar’s military newly targets the Kachin, a Christian minority group in Myanmar’s northern mountains. The Kachin are a member of the Northern Alliance, a coalition of ethnic minorities in northern Myanmar who vie for increased representation in, autonomy from, and even independence from the Burmese central government. Myanmar however seeks to proscribe insurgency and will show no humanitarian restraint to those who refuse the ceasefire. Nobel Prize winning State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi however cannot control the military- led by Commander in Chief Min Aung Hlaing- who are the perpetrators of this “cleansing” that they deem is in the best interest of Burmese unity (More).
|China to Host Iran to Avoid Project Disruption Amid Nuclear Deal Doubt
Today, May 28, 2018
China will host Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in an effort to keep Iran in the 2015 nuclear deal. Becoming tenuous after Trump withdrew this month, Iran’s acquiescence to the global deal is the responsibility of other nations to maintain. Specifically, China and Russia will be co-hosting the summit as leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) security block, an establishment Iran is keen on joining. Because Western sanctions on Tehran have been lifted, Iran could also the SCO just as India and Pakistan did last year. Besides these five nations, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have also been invited to the summit scheduled sometime in June. Other discussion points will include counter-terrorism and drug smuggling (More).
|China’s New Revolution: The Reign of Xi Jinping
Elizabeth C. Economy
It was October 2017, and the Chinese leader was addressing the 19th Party Congress, the latest of the gatherings of Chinese Communist Party elites held every five years. In his three-and-a-half-hour speech, Xi, who was appointed the CCP’s general secretary in 2012, declared his first term a “truly remarkable five years in the course of the development of the party and the country,” a time in which China had “stood up, grown rich, and become strong.” He acknowledged that the party and the country still confronted challenges, such as official corruption, inequality in living standards, and what he called “erroneous viewpoints.” But overall, he insisted, China was headed in the right direction—so much so, in fact, that he recommended that other countries draw on “Chinese wisdom” and follow “a Chinese approach to solving the problems facing mankind” (More).
|The US-China Trade War
Roncevert Ganan Almond
When examining the state of U.S. President Donald Trump’s self-described “trade war” against China, one cannot help but wonder whether the White House has a coherent strategy or whether the plan has been to engage in battle in order to reach a policy. Given this confusion, it is perhaps both unsurprising and appropriate that the Trump administration has momentarily lost its taste for confrontation with China (More).
|The Leaders of the Two Koreas Meet Again
The Economist, May 27, 2018
Following Trump’s withdrawal from the US-DPRK Singapore summit, Presidents Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un of South and North Korea respectively held an impromptu meeting, the second in the last decade between the two diametric countries. Kim called Moon after Trump’s cancellation suggesting his concern over American reliability but commitment to détente and peace-keeping. Particularly, Kim may have been spooked by American talk about the “Libyan model” of denuclearization which led to the brutal killing of Libya’s former dictator Muammar Qaddafi. Juxtaposing this fate with Kim’s belief that nuclear arms are the only means to his regime’s survival, it seems the Korean dictator is in a zugzwang. Moon remained open to Kim’s concerns while asserting that the USA and DPRK must build their own amity as he is with Kim (More).
|Kim, Moon Discuss How to Revive Trump Summit in Surprise Meeting
Kanga Kong and Heesu Lee
The leaders of North and South Korea met for two hours Saturday in a surprise meeting to discuss ways to salvage the canceled summit between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump, and the two countries plan additional talks this week…“They shared the opinion that they would meet frequently in the future to make dialogue brisk and pool wisdom and efforts,” KCNA said… They discussed the potential Trump-Kim summit and ways to implement a peace declaration they signed during their first meeting on April 27, according to the text from the president’s office. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted on Saturday to “Stay Focused. It’s about the outcome. It’s about keeping Americans and the world safe.”(More).
|After Snubbing Taiwan, Burkina Faso Establishes Diplomatic Ties with China
The New York Times, May 26, 2018
Taiwan endures another loss in its geopolitical influence as Burkina Faso becomes the fourth nation under President Tsai Ing-wen’s tenure to sever ties in order to establish relations with China. Taiwan is now left with only 18 diplomatic allies- many of which are poor nations in Central America and the Pacific such as Belize and Nauru. Only Swaziland remains in Africa. Because China refuses to trade with nations who recognize Taiwan (contrary to their “One China” principle), most must choose China over Taiwan for their economic integrity. Though Mr. Wu, Taiwan’s foreign minister claims this loss will only bolster existing ties and although the US maintains friendly though unofficial relations, China seems to be succeeding in gradually rendering Taiwan irrelevant in the global scene (More).
|Where Myanmar Went Wrong: From Democratic Awakening to Ethnic Cleansing
Late last year, when news broke that Myanmar’s military had been systematically killing members of the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority, much of the world was shocked. In recent years, Myanmar (also known as Burma) had been mostly a good news story. After decades of brutal dominance by the military, the country had seen the main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, score an all-too-rare democratic triumph, winning the 2015 national elections in a landslide. The NLD’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, an internationally celebrated dissident who had received the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to democratize Myanmar, became Myanmar’s de facto head of state (More).
|‘Poker Player’ Xi Jinping May Hold North Korea Trump Card
The Straits Times, May 25, 2018
The greatest beneficiary of the DPRK-US summit cancellation by President Trump may be Chinese leader Xi Jinping. The cancellation, more likely a postponement, would grant Xi enough time to ensure China’s interests are protected and to potentially hold more private meetings with the North Korean and/or American leaders before the summit actually transpires (if at all). Though a slight travesty to claim Xi premeditated the cancellation to buy time, the fact that it is still in his favor verifies Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang’s disavowal of any ulterior motives the Chinese may have in the geopolitical affair. After all, an ultimate consequence of cancellation is reconsideration by the US of military options against North Korea- something Xi does not want (More).
|Why President Trump’s North Korea Summit Is Still Likely to Happen, According to a Top Expert Mahita Gajanan
Time, May 24, 2018
Trump’s cancellation of the summit with North Korean leader Kim should be construed as a maneuver of gamesmanship, signaling a postponement rather than a termination of the historic negation. Trump’s official media letter contained ambiguously positive phrases regarding North Korea such as “We had a wonderful dialogue.” Kim likewise exhibited promising sentiments towards the United States through the release of hostages and the (purported) cessation of nuclear arms testing. Because both the US and DPRK are displaying signs of cooperation and need a certain respite from precarious diplomatic tensions, the cancellation should be seen an opportunity for each leader to recoup behind public eye so they can capitalize on an opportunity that may not come again (More).
|China and India: On the ‘Friend’ Side of ‘Frenemy’
Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping of India and China respectively settled into the “first informal summit” nations after years of growing tension (e.g. Doklam) and mutual distrust. Though nothing official came of the late-April Wuhan meeting, both leaders underscored their commitment to a future of bilateral cooperation in their discussion of contentious topics like trade deficits, terrorism, and the Belt and Road Initiative. Though both seemed to be on equal footing, Modi was the one who had much more to lose because he asked Xi to meet. To compensate for declining approval, the Indian leader must ensure border stability to China. For Xi, the meeting was a timely opportunity to boast China’s diplomatic geniality in light of increasing friction with the US (More).
|New Zealand Deploys ‘Rugby Diplomacy’ Amid Scrum with China over Pacific Islands
New Zealand’s deployment of ‘rugby diplomacy’ is the country’s unique approach to parry growing Chinese influence in the southern Pacific. A joint team from Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga- dubbed the Pacific Force- is set to join the Super Rugby club competition contested normally 15 teams of the southern hemisphere as well as Japan. This endeavor was a rejoinder to China’s US$1.78 billion provision of aid to the Pacific nations between 2006 and 2016- a pretext to gain unshakeable foothold in the region. While China has even set up government buildings in East Timor and eyes a military base in Vanuatu, New Zealand vies to retain regional control and domestic value while incurring the various benefits and opportunities of sport (More).
|After Fleeing Violence in Myanmar, Rohingya Refugees Struggle in India
Absence of legislation regarding refugee rights in India has led to unfavorable differential treatment of Rohingya asylum seekers. Though India’s tradition of accepting refugees reaches dates decades back and includes Tibetans, Sri Lankan Tamils, Hindu refugees from Pakistan, and Bangladeshis, it is predominantly charity based, lacking an official legal framework. Legislative precarity permits an inequality in refugee treatment allowing, for example, Christians from Pakistan to become citizens but PM Narendra Modi to declare that Rohingyas must be deported because they pose a security threat. With almost half of India’s 38,000 refugees Rohingya and increasing identity mandates such as India’s Aadhaar, tension is breeding among the policy makers of refugee rights and already-struggling refugees themselves (More).
|Thai-Cambodian Fugitive Deal Won’t Mend Relations
March’s meeting between Cambodia’s deputy prime minister Tea Banh and Thailand’s prime minister Prayuth Cha-o-cha garnered attention because it yielded a successful deal between the traditionally conflicting nations. The agreement- to exchange fugitives- though ostensibly a symptom of improving relations is more likely a façade for political machinations; both regimes have become increasingly oppressive and share the common interest of silencing political opposition. This “negative cooperation” will likely not accomplish much as the true roots of disagreement (e.g. border disputes, migration, and smuggling) remain unaddressed.
|Japan: From Gunboat Diplomacy to Coast Guard Diplomacy
Jay Tristan Tarriela
On December 18, 2017, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called a Ministerial Council meeting to discuss his plans in strategically expanding efforts to strengthen the Japanese maritime security system. In particular, he stressed the need for the Japanese Coast Guard (JCG) to be further developed since it has significant roles in attaining his objectives and, most importantly, in promoting international cooperation by sharing Japanese values regarding a free and open maritime order based on the rule of law with relevant countries in order to realize the free and open Indo-Pacific Strategy (More).
|Japan, China and South Korea Get Together
The Economist, May 10, 2018
Given the recent shift in the diplomatic status quo of North-East Asia, Japan is indignant for being overlooked. US President Trump’s acceptance to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un compelled Japanese PM Shinzo Abe to question the reliability of relations with the US. In response, Abe hosted a trilateral meeting on May 9 between himself and his two biggest neighbors- Chinese PM Li Keqiang and South Korean president Moon Jae-in- who could bring him back into the loop of the DPRK and US’s rapidly evolving relationship. His inquietude is justified because Trump could, for example, make a deal with Kim eliminating long range missiles while allowing the short-range ones that could still hit Japan. The summit brought closer all three nations, reducing their differences in light of the new neighboring dynamic (More).
|Korean Leaders Pledge Peace
Walter Sim and Chang May Choon
Kim Jong Un became the first North Korean leader to set foot in the south, greeting South Korean President Moon Jae In with a long handshake. The leaders promised to no more war and a new era of peace making it a watershed moment for reconciliation in the Korean peninsula. Other warming events include Moon stepping over the border to the North, both leaders planting a symbolic pine tree dating back to 1953, and both concluding their day with an affable embrace. Prospective developments include an official end to the Korean war since it ceased only with an armistice and some form of denuclearization (More).
|Xi, Modi Push for Better Ties at Meeting
Goh Sui Noi
Chinese President Xi Jinping yesterday told visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that he hoped their meeting will start a new chapter in bilateral ties, at their first “unofficial” summit meant to reset fraught relations…Bilateral ties took a serious dip during a 74-day stand-off between the two countries’ militaries in an area high in the Himalayas – Doklam to India and Donglang to the Chinese – that is claimed by both Bhutan and China…Chinese analysts said the informality of the meeting between Mr Xi and Mr Modi allows for a freer and broader exchange and more meaningful consensus (More).
|Myanmar’s Buddhist Factor
The Jakarta Post, April 27, 2018
The absence of Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi from this weekend’s 32nd ASEAN summit in Singapore is alarming because it signals that Myanmar may return to its previous isolationist policy…The well-orchestrated scenario by the military to ethnically cleanse Rakhine of the minority ethnic group has angered the world…ASEAN needs to consider more intensive participation by Buddhist-majority member states — Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia — in dealing with Myanmar, especially their Buddhist leaders….ASEAN is in the right position to coordinate these inter-country efforts (More).
|China-US Trade War and Impact on ASEAN
The facts show that external trade has been the largest contributor to China’s economic growth. Market-oriented economic reforms have brought about expansion in trade and changes to its commodity structure. Both exports and imports shifted from agriculture to industrial products having ramifications across the entire Southeast-Asian, geopolitical landscape (More).
|The South China Sea and ASEAN’s 32nd Summit Meeting
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is set to convene its 32nd Summit in Singapore on April 28…draft copies of two important policy documents that are set to be released at the conclusion of the summit: the ASEAN Leaders’ Vision for A Resilient and Innovative ASEAN and the Zero Draft of the Chairman’s Statement of 32nd ASEAN Summit (More).
|The China – India – Nepal Triangle
Kamal Dev Bhattarai
While Nepal’s Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali was in China from April 16-21, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi asked India to be a part of new development projects in Nepal. “Whether it’s China or India, our two countries shall be happy to see Nepal’s new development after its political transition,” Wang said. China wants to invest in big connectivity projects in Nepal but prefers to bring its Asian competitor, India, on board. Some Nepali and Chinese scholars see this as an opportunity for trilateral cooperation between Nepal, India, and China, but Indian policymakers and academics have not shown much interest (More).
|A New Cold War With Russia Forces Japan to Choose Sides
James D. J. Brown
The Japanese government has been engaged in a delicate balancing act when it comes to Russia. Even as the crisis in East-West relations has intensified since 2014, Japan has strengthened political and economic ties with its northern neighbor. It has justified this policy as essential in order to secure a breakthrough in Japan’s longstanding territorial dispute over the Southern Kurils/Northern Territories. However, as geopolitical tensions reach Cold War levels, Japan is under increasing pressure to fall in line with its Western partners (More).
|Trouble in Paradise: A Chinese Occupation in Tahiti
China’s strategic and military interests in the South Pacific are expanding rapidly. They build on longstanding links and fill the vacuum left by receding U.S. and French power projection in the region, as well as Australia and New Zealand’s longstanding neglect of key relationships. China is now acknowledged by many Pacific leaders as the dominant power in the region. While Pacific leaders will continue to work with traditional partners, they will not back down on their expanding relations with China. China has offered to them what the United States and its allies cannot, massive sums of money for development projects that promise jobs and economic independence (More).
|CIA boss Mike Pompeo held secret meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un: US media
Deutsche Welle News, April 17, 2018
Secretary of state nominee and CIA chief Mike Pompeo is believed to have met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over Easter weekend to set up a meeting with US President Donald Trump, US media reported Tuesday. On Wednesday, Trump confirmed there was a meeting…Earlier, Trump said the US had held high-level talks with North Korea, confirming that officials have begun laying the groundwork for the anticipated meeting between the leaders sometime before the end of May (More).
|Jokowi’s Indo-Pacific Vision
The Jakarta Post, April 13, 2018
The two-day Indonesia-Africa Forum (IAF) in Bali was meaningful in terms of business for the host country, because it resulted in trade deals totaling US$1.08 billion…Jokowi raised the concept of enhancing cooperation among littoral countries during the ASEAN-India summit in New Delhi last January. At various world forums, Jokowi unveiled his vision to grow Indonesia as a global maritime fulcrum and his speech in India was the culmination of his maritime power platform (More).
|Ring Of Fire: Tremors and Eruptions in the US-China Trade War
Roncevert Ganan Almond
…On April 5, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump likewise erupted in fury, announcing a new salvo in the U.S.-China trade war that threatens to cast a choking cloud over the global economy. This round in the dispute between Washington and Beijing should be distinguished from and elevated above prior iterations, which include the solar panel-sorghum episode and the tit-for-tat tiff involving U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs and corresponding Chinese tariffs on $3 billion of U.S. exports like pork and fruit. Instead, this fight more clearly represents the essential struggle between the United States and China over strategic technological breakthroughs and competing stations within the global economy (More).
|Does ASEAN Want the US Navy in the South China Sea?
Asia Times, April 3, 2018
…the current US administration has once again stepped up rhetoric and naval operations, sending a message to China: Your neighbors in the region are smaller than you, but they are not alone…But the question of whether member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) support US presence in the South China Sea may not have a black-and-white answer…In short, says maritime policy analyst Mark Valencia, “Southeast Asian support may be much shallower and more ephemeral than [the US] thinks.” (More).
|Kim Jong Un’s China Visit May Be Start of His World Travels
VOA News, April 1, 2018
Kim Jong Un is visiting China to meet with President Xi Jinping marking the first time he has travelled outside of North Korea since assuming power in 2011. Subsequent scheduled conferences are with Presidents Moon (DPRK) and Trump (USA) and even Putin (RUS) and PM Abe (JPN) later on. This surprise trip to China is nevertheless a wise move for Kim as he will be better educated and less vulnerable when conversing with the other world leaders later on. At the same time, China as the first host benefits them tremendously because it will have established Xi’s influence on the Korean dictator and his invaluableness in leading the process of rapprochement between DPRK and the rest of the world (More).
|After Kim-Xi Meeting, Abe Eager to Advance Japan’s Interests
Japan’s PM Abe has quickly arranged a trip to Washington to “coordinate policy” with the US president…Abe is expected to urge the US president to include a human rights component to their talks, specifically a commitment from North Korea to return all Japanese nationals that have been abducted to train the regime’s secret agents…South Korea appears to have been convinced that the North is genuine in its desire to rebuild cross-border ties. Now China is on the receiving end of Pyongyang’s charm offensive. Tokyo senses that Washington might be willing to make friends with Kim’s regime, leaving Japan out in the cold (More).
|The U.S. Wants Back in the TPP? Good Luck With That
More than a year after withdrawing from a big Asia-Pacific trade pact, the Trump administration keeps talking about rejoining it on its own terms. But the Asia-Pacific countries that were eager a year ago to hold the door open for the United States are now busy building their own trading order — without Washington at all…Many of the member states shudder at the idea of re-opening contentious, yearslong negotiations just to try to coax the United States back into the club…Instead each country pursues its own diplomatic objectives perhaps better off without the US at all (More).
|Australia’s anticlimactic ASEAN Summit
The ASEAN–Australia special summit on 17–18 March 2018 concluded with the issuing of the grandly titled ‘Sydney Declaration’. The joint statement nods to many of the issues raised at the summit including security, trade, investment, rights and people-to-people links. Yet there was something anticlimactic both about the document and the summit as a whole…for the government to achieve its ambitions, it needs to ensure that the attention and focus Southeast Asia received over the summit (and in the months leading up to it) is sustained over the coming years (More).
|U.S., China Sharpen Trade Swords
Lingling Wei, Bod Davis, and William Maudlin
As the Trump administration pursues talks with allies on exemptions from U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum, China risks escalating trade tensions with the U.S. by targeting U.S. agricultural exports from Farm Belt states…Driving the U.S. approach with its closest allies is the possibility that tensions with China may push global trading interests into two competing camps, according to some observers, one aligned with Washington, the other aligned with Beijing…By easing off with tariffs and taking its time on China sanctions, the U.S. is now giving itself time to build a trade coalition against China on several fronts…Any Chinese response to new U.S. tariffs would be measured and proportional,” said a Chinese official involved in policy-making (More).
|Is Abdulla Yameen Handing Over the Maldives to China?
Robert Manning and Bharath Gopalaswamy
China has emerged in recent years, because of its economic ascent, as a neocolonial practitioner of predatory economics, which is sparking a new Great Game in the Indo-Pacific…Opposition politicians within the Maldives fear the Chinese are setting a debt trap, as they did for Sri Lanka…it seems that the Maldives is on the verge of conceding its sovereignty to Beijing as a direct consequence of Chinese business taking advantage of the economic opportunities present in the small island country (More).
|Redefining the Belt and Road Initiative
Ever since Xi Jinping put forward China’s attempt to recreate the old Silk Road in 2013, observers have considered the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to be a project spanning Asia, Europe, and Africa, encompassing around 65 countries that have signed up for it. The two corridors that form the BRI, the Silk Road Economic Belt (the Belt) and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (the Road), were perceived as two routes that will stretch over Eurasia or the maritime rimland, respectively, to link China with Europe (More).
|Rodrigo Duterte to Pull the Philippines Out of International Criminal Court
Jake Maxwell Watts
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte plans to pull his country out of the International Criminal Court, putting the court’s examination of alleged crimes against humanity in the Philippines in doubt…The government denies that authorities systematically execute suspected drug traffickers…The decision to withdraw from the ICC caps weeks of insult-trading between Mr. Duterte and officials of the United Nations…Last year Burundi became the first country to leave the 15-year-old ICC. The ordeal comes in tandem with increasing corruption reports in Cambodia as well as genocide in Myanmar (More).
|Trump Decision to Meet Kim Wasn’t Impulsive, Aides Say
Ted Mann and Gordon Lubold
President Donald Trump’s advisers on Sunday argued that his surprise decision to agree to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was less impulsive than it appeared to U.S. allies and members of Congress…The remarks by Mr. Trump’s cabinet officials suggested the president’s surprise decision to agree to meet with Mr. Kim had been made in line with a broader strategy of combating the North Korean nuclear threat…A small group of White House officials were aware that the South Koreans would convey and invitation from Mr. Kim, and that Mr. Trump planned to accept it, but the president’s decision to tell the South Korean delegation to announce it to the world was unexpected (More).
|Continuity Behind Strengthening Singapore-Malaysia Ties
The eight Singapore-Malaysia Leaders’ Retreat held both symbolic and physical milestones for the two nations. Leaders Lee Hsien Loong and Najib Razak of Singapore and Malaysia respectively agreed to build a rapid transit system linking Johor Bahru and Singapore dubbed by some as a mini Belt and Road Initiative. Besides the apparent transportation benefits, the project underscores Singaporean and Malaysian interdependence and their willingness to improve historical acrimonious relations. Though public condemnation of Malaysia’s political and social deficiencies by Singaporean sultans (e.g. Ibrahim Ismail) as well as the looming elections and power transfer challenge the partnership, both Lee and Razak are expecting only a continuation of improving relations (More).
|Washington Strikes Back Against Chinese Investment
Elias Groll and Keith Johnson
A new bill moving forward on Capitol Hill would expand regulators’ ability to block Chinese acquisitions — and U.S. ventures abroad…Chinese internet giant Baidu made a big investment in American lidar specialist Velodyne in 2016…That Velodyne investment represents exactly the kind of increasingly aggressive Chinese investment to snap up cutting-edge technology that could give Beijing both an economic and a military advantage…But the bill lawmakers are proposing in both the House and the Senate doesn’t just update U.S. government oversight of incoming investments. It also takes aim at outbound investments and ventures by U.S. firms (More).
|The Chinese Navy Can Make North Korean Sanctions Bite
Joint U.S.-Chinese naval operations would put real pressure on Pyongyang — and are in China’s interests, too…As China increasingly seeks to assert itself as a dominant player in the region, North Korea is becoming a liability. China still views North Korea as a strategic buffer against democratic South Korea and, by proxy, the United States, but the cost of propping up an embarrassing regime is outweighing the strategic value. What China seeks most of all is regional stability, and North Korea’s actions are having a markedly destabilizing effect on the Korean Peninsula…China will not intentionally allow the North Korean regime to collapse…But there seems to be an increasing willingness to apply the screws to Kim over the nuclear issue (More).
|China-South Korea Relations: A Delicate Détente
China-South Korea relations have shown some signs of improvement after late October 2017, when Beijing and Seoul announced their shared desire to put their relationship back on a positive track. But rather than achieving a lasting détente, the two countries have simply reached a new stage in an ongoing negotiation over Seoul’s approach to regional security…Yet key differences between the two countries’ North Korea strategies have not been fully resolved. These unresolved issues will become exceedingly difficult for the two sides to manage if progress toward denuclearizing North Korea is not forthcoming in the near future (More).
|North Korean General’s Presence at Olympics Closing Ceremony Presents a Quandary for the U.S.
Jonathan ChengThe Wall Street Journal, February 22, 2018
Pyongyang’s plan to have an army general tied to two attacks on South Korean forces lead North Korea’s delegation to the Winter Olympics’ closing ceremonies this weekend presents a diplomatic quandary for U.S. presidential adviser Ivanka Trump…In response to US VP Mike Pence’s ignoring of North Korean envoys, U.S. later said a meeting between Mr. Pence and the North Koreans had been planned, but that Pyongyang had canceled at the last minute…The U.S. delegation this weekend will need to decide how to treat the presence of the general, Kim Yong Chol, on whom Seoul has imposed sanctions for his alleged role in the 2010 sinking of a South Korean warship, which killed 46 sailors, and the bombardment of a South Korean island the same year. (More).
|South Korean President Hopes Olympics Will Prompt U.S. Dialogue With North
Jonathan Cheng and Eun-Young Jeong
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Saturday that he remained hopeful that a recent inter-Korean rapprochement around the Olympics could lead to dialogue between the U.S. and North Korea… Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, who was making a last-minute trip to the Winter Olympics in South Korea, extended an invitation for Mr. Moon to visit Pyongyang…DPRK lashed out at U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who caused a small furor last week by not standing when the two Koreas marched under a unified flag at the Opening Ceremony, and for ignoring the North Korean delegation, which included Mr. Kim’s younger sister Kim Yo Jong. Still president Moon hopes for the best (More).
|North and South Korea marched together under one flag at the Olympics
North and South Korea marched under a united flag at the 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Pyeongchang on Friday in a symbolic break in tensions between the two nations over North Korea’s nuclear program…It was a rare but not unprecedented spectacle…But this year’s gesture of unity comes at a crucial moment. Tensions between North Korea and South Korea have skyrocketed as Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs have advanced at an astonishing pace in the past year, and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, has persistently demonstrated a readiness to make use of them (More).
|Pledges to Improve ASEAN Rights System Rings Hollow
Ten years ago, the ASEAN Charter came into force. Its Article 14 on the establishment of its human rights body was said to be the most difficult section to bring all member states to consensus…The Making of the ASEAN Charter provides an interesting account on its debates among members of the high-level task force, comprising eminent appointed individuals. In an attempt to revise its stance on human rights on its decennial anniversary, participant nations agreed to enact change but with little conviction (More).
|Maldives crisis: ex-President Nasheed Seeks India’s Help
Former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed asked India to intervene militarily to resolve the political crisis characterized by incumbent Abdulla Yameen’s imposition of a state of emergency and arrest of Supreme Court Chief Justice Adbulla Saeed and also Former President Maumoon Gayoom. ..India is examining a host of options: targeted travel ban for top brass of Yameen government, restricting visas for Maldives nationals to India, and squeezing aid and trade with the island nation….However, China, which sends the highest number of tourists to Maldives, has not issued a strong statement against the Yameen government so far (More).
|Sam Sokha at ‘risk of imminent deportation’ in Thailand
A woman who fled Cambodia to avoid prosecution for throwing a shoe at a billboard of Prime Minister Hun Sen has been arrested in Thailand and is at imminent risk of deportation…”But deporting her to Cambodia is like sending her to her death” said her lawyer Koreeyor Manuchae…The move against Sokha came amid a sweeping crackdown on dissent in Cambodia…Human rights groups said Thailand, in recent years, has forcibly returned more than a hundred refugees and asylum seekers based on the requests of foreign governments ignoring the international principle of non-re-foulement (More).
|Belated engagement after 25 years: towards stronger ASEAN-India ties
The diplomatic calendar of India and ASEAN has been a busy one in the past few months. Last year marked completion of 25 years of India’s Look East Policy. The 15th ASEAN-India Summit held in November 2017 was followed by the ASEAN-India Connectivity Summit in December 2017. Earlier this month the ASEAN-India Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (Indian Diaspora Day) was held in Singapore. On Jan. 26 the heads of states or governments of all the ten ASEAN countries became chief guests for India’s Republic Day Parade… India and ASEA in the past 25 years have they been making efforts to realize the full potential of their relations. These overtime engagements would certainly go a long way in converging the interests of both India and ASEAN (More).
|China to Be Focus of U.S. Trade Policy This Year, White House Says
Jacob M. Schlesinger
President Donald Trump’s “America First” trade policy will be more focused in the coming year on countering China, after a first year tangling with allies ranging from North America to Europe and Asia. “There’s a lot of consensus around the viewpoint that China does need to be the focal point, because China’s behaviors are causing significant problems for the U.S. economy and for the global trading system”… Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, replied “We are willing to make concerted efforts with the United States to stay committed to building the robust, steady and sound economic relations.” (More).
|Koreas Strike Deal on Olympic Unity as U.S. Pressures North
Andrew Jeong and Jonathan Cheng
The Wall Street Journal, January 17, 2018
Athletes from North and South Korea will march together under a single flag at the Winter Olympics next month, the South said Wednesday—part of a sweeping agreement on the games that marks Seoul’s most ardent and public embrace of its nuclear-armed rival in a decade…The agreement could also strain relations between Seoul and its American allies…South Korea’s government is, in essence, offering some diplomatic cover to Pyongyang amid the North’s standoff with the Trump administration. But “Speculating on whether this will eventually lead to denuclearization talks is getting ahead of ourselves,” said Mr. Kim, the adviser (More).
|Trump open to direct talks with North Korea
The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun, January 11, 2018
U.S. President Donald Trump threw his weight behind the Olympics-inspired diplomatic opening with North Korea, telling South Korea’s leader Wednesday that the United States was open to talks with Kim Jong Un’s government under the right circumstances…But South Korea’s presidential office also said Trump told Moon to let North Korea understand that there will be no military action of any kind (More).
East Asia Forum, August 10, 2017
President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) has set in motion a total re-think of trade policy in Malaysia. Malaysia’s relations with the United States are in a state of flux. There is little comfort for Malaysian policymakers in what’s been coming out of Washington. Trump has classified Malaysia (along with Thailand, Indonesia and a host of other countries) as a trade ‘cheater’, largely because Malaysia has a large trade surplus with the United States (More).
The Japan Times, August 10, 2017
The Trump administration unilaterally pulled the United States from the TPP, and in trade negotiations demonstrates a strong inclination toward bilateral agreements. This is of growing concern to members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which hold dear the principle of multilateralism. Even more worrisome, however, is the fact that the American commitment to security matters in the Asia-Pacific region has become increasingly dubious (More).
Richard Javad Heydarian
The Straits Times, August 10, 2017
Rising tensions in the South China Sea, as well as the Korean peninsula, dominated discussions at the latest ministerial meetings of the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean)…On both issues, China not only avoided criticism of its behaviour, but projected leadership with diplomatic finesse. In contrast, the United States struggled to exercise its traditional role as the anchor of stability and prosperity in the region…China portrays rising tensions over South China Sea as interference by non-claimant states (More).
Foreign Affairs, August 09, 2017
For over a month, Indian and Chinese troops have been facing off on the Doklam Plateau, a disputed patch of land in the Himalayas near the junction of Bhutan, Tibet, and the Indian state of Sikkim. The impasse began with China’s decision to build a road on territory also claimed by Bhutan. The Chinese construction project, which was discovered in June, led to Bhutanese protests. These drew in India, which decided to increase the number of its troops in the area. New Delhi backs Bhutan’s claim and is called on to help address the country’s security concerns by the terms of a bilateral treaty renewed in 2007 (More).
World Politics Review, August 09, 2017
Since June, Singapore has been gripped by a public spat between the three children of the city-state’s revered founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, over the future of a family home. While some have downplayed the episode—which involves Singapore’s current prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, Lee’s eldest son—as a mere family feud, in reality the dispute reflects broader concerns about the future of Singapore’s politics and the government’s ability to manage domestic and foreign policy changes in the post-Lee Kuan Yew era (More).
Le Hong Hiep
The Japan Times, August 08, 2017
Japan and Vietnam are stepping up strategic cooperation as China grows more assertive. During his visit to Hue, Vietnam’s former royal capital, earlier this year, Emperor Akihito and his entourage were reminded of their country’s long-standing cultural connections with Vietnam…Emperor Akihito’s visit to Vietnam — the first by a Japanese monarch — represents an important milestone in the maturing bilateral relationship, which has been buttressed not only by strong cultural links, but also by robust economic ties and growing strategic cooperation (More).
Joseph Chinyong Liow
The Straits Times, August 01, 2017
Under President Donald Trump, the United States has become a distracted power. Ongoing investigations into alleged Russian involvement in last year’s presidential election cast a long shadow over the presidency, and healthcare policy has become a war of attrition within the President’s own party…Many analysts lament the lack of strategic vision in the Trump administration’s approach to the South China Sea. Such a strategy can be crafted on five pillars: international law, deterrence, incentives, diplomatic engagement, and keeping an Asean focus (More).
World Politics Review, August 01, 2017
Amid a recent spate of attacks, and with peace talks floundering, the long-running separatist insurgency in southern Thailand is showing worrying signs of escalation…Peace talks between Thailand’s ruling military junta, which seized power after toppling the democratically elected government in a 2014 coup, and a loose organization of rebel groups have been ongoing for more than two years. However, little progress has been made, as the most powerful militant group—known as Barisan Revolusi Nasional, or BRN—have been excluded from the dialogue (More).
South China Morning Post, August 01, 2017
China and Asean have set a good example on regional economic integration to bring about mutual benefit. But the deeper economic engagement between China and its smaller neighbours does not automatically translate into trust and friendship. Instead, mutual suspicion is on the rise, due to conflicting geopolitical interests amid rising US-China rivalry over domination of regional affairs… many Asean members are caught between ‘China opportunities’ and the ‘China threat’, as they walk a tightrope between security ally US and an assertive Beijing, with disputes in the South China Sea threatening regional stability (More).
South China Morning Post, July 31, 2017
For nearly two months, troops from the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have been deployed at close quarters on the Doklam plateau near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction. Amid much feverish commentary on the risks of a wider conflict, there has been a deafening silence on one critical issue – the role of the United States. Apart from one very anodyne – not to mention obvious – response from the US Department of State that India and China should seek ways to resolve the conflict peacefully, India’s supposed “natural ally” has said precious little (More).
The Straits Times, July 28, 2017
One year after the international arbitration tribunal at The Hague resoundingly ruled against China’s claim to most of the South China Sea it would seem that Beijing has prevailed with its firm stand on the issue and refusal to acknowledge the ruling, much less abide by it…It is commonly believed in South-east Asia that former US President Barack Obama’s failure to hold Mr Xi to his promise of not militarising the South China Sea probably contributed to Beijing’s subsequent assertive behaviour in those waters (More).
Theresa Lou, Ashley Feng
World Politics Review, July 28, 2017
Late last month, the Trump administration approved its first package of arms sales to Taiwan. For Taipei, this welcome news was long overdue, but not nearly enough to stop its slide toward international isolation. Taiwan recently lost Panama, one of its few remaining diplomatic allies, to China, when the Panamanian government severed its diplomatic ties to Taipei and officially recognized Beijing instead. The tiny African island nation of Sao Tome and Principe made the same decision in late December (More).
China’s Window of Opportunity in the South China Sea
Xue Li and Cheng Zhangxi
The Diplomat, July 26, 2017
The South China Sea (SCS) issue has now arrived at a critical point. China should take the advantages of this opportunity to adjust its South China Sea approach – to steer from a “unilateral win” formula to “multilateral win” formula, so as to take lead in the problem-solving process. This new approach should drive the South China Sea problem-solving process to a faster track, in the process clearing out major obstacles to building a Southeast Asian hub for the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR) (More).
China’s North Korean Liability
Foreign Affairs, July 11, 2017
On July 8, at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, U.S. President Donald Trump held a cordial press conference with Chinese President Xi Jinping where they discussed how they would address the growing threat of North Korea. Just days before, on July 4, as many Americans were observing Independence Day, North Korea announced that it had successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching Alaska. This was likely on Trump’s mind at the summit when he told this Chinese counterpart that he believed the two of them would “come to a successful conclusion” in reining in Pyongyang. The key challenge, of course, is how they will get there (More).
Don’t allow Taiwan issue to strain Sino-US ties
South China Morning Post, July 4, 2017
The latest US arms sale to Taiwan may step up the pressure on Beijing over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. But it has added to tensions beneath the surface in relations between Beijing and Washington… It is clear from Trump’s urging of Xi to step up pressure on Pyongyang that the Americans felt China could have done more to exert its economic leverage over the rogue nuclear state. Xi in turn urged Trump to abide by the recent reaffirmation of the one-China principle and a decades-old undertaking during the normalisation of bilateral relations to taper arms sales to Taiwan (More).
The standoff in Doklam
The Tribune, July 4, 2017
The latest face-off between the Indian and Chinese security forces in Doklam, where the borders of India, China and Bhutan meet, brings a sense of déjà vu. There was a similar extended face-off in the Depsang area in Ladakh in April 2013. There have been other incidents as well but the mechanisms in place to maintain peace and tranquillity at the border have eventually worked and the issues have been resolved. Both sides have remained committed to preventing escalation. One hopes that the Doklam incident will not be allowed to vitiate the relationship between the two countries, particularly in view of the fact that Prime Minister Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly had a friendly meeting on the sidelines of the recent meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Almaty (More).
China takes Security Council presidency in July, putting wide-ranging crises on agenda
William M. Reilly
Xinhua, July 4, 2017
Ambassador Liu Jieyi of China, UN Security Council president for July, said on Monday that issues of Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, Colombia, Haiti and Cyprus will be on the agenda of the 15-nation council in July… Liu addressed the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, even though not formally listed on the council’s July agenda. He reiterated the Chinese “suspension for suspension” proposal package – suspension of nuclear and ballistic testing on the part of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and suspension of the military exercises on the part of the United States and the Republic of Korea
Trump Dumping ‘China First’ Policies
Gordon G. Chang
World Affairs, July 3, 2017
It looks like America has a new China policy…US officials believe President Trump is unhappy with Beijing and is thinking of trade actions against China. His frustration follows more than two months of generally unsuccessful attempts to get the Chinese to help Washington disarm North Korea…Previous US administrations subordinated America’s interests and let these and other issues fester as they sought to integrate China into the international system. Trump, however, has announced he will not pursue what has amounted to the “China First” policies of his predecessors (More).
The rebirth of the Trans-Pacific Partnership
The Japan Times, July 3, 2017
When Donald Trump, in one of his first acts as president, announced that the United States would not participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, many assumed that the mega-regional trade deal was dead. But such assumptions may have been premature… But many relevant players, eager to prevent the TPP from crumbling, soon began to discuss moving forward without the U.S… Japan and New Zealand announced that they would seek an agreement with other signatories by November to move the TPP forward. If they succeed, TPP signatories will benefit substantially — and the U.S. may well find that it has missed a massive opportunity (More).
Trump and China: implications for Southeast Asia
East Asia Forum, July 3, 2017
Before his inauguration, Chinese specialists judged that Trump, as a pragmatic businessman, could be ‘shaped’ to align with Chinese interests and would ultimately be easier to deal with than Clinton. President-elect Trump soon upended these sanguine expectations with a few gestures, comments and tweets… China’s new uncertainty over the US president added to reasons for Beijing to avoid — at least for now — controversial expansions in the disputed South China Sea. How long this will last is a guessing game (More).
Singapore cannot be cowed by size
The Straits Times, July 3, 2017
The Straits Times published an article by diplomat Kishore Mahbubani, “Qatar: Big Lessons From A Small Country”, in which he said the experience of Qatar reminds Singapore of the need for small states to behave like small states, and to cherish regional and international institutions…The article sparked much discussion online…Diplomat Bilahari Kausikan posted this response on his Facebook page to Kishore Mahbubani’s article (More).
Qatar: Big lessons from a small country
The Straits Times, July 1, 2017
…what is happening in Qatar is not just about regional rivalry in the Middle East, or power play between the superpowers. In Singapore, we should pay close attention to developments there, and most of all, draw the right lessons from Qatar’s current plight, no matter how hard it may be to swallow the painful lessons from this episode… Qatar episode holds many lessons for Singapore. We ignore them at our peril. There are at least three big lessons we should learn and take corrective actions to implement the learning (More).
For Russia, Putin Power Is Losing Some of Its Shine
Stratfor, June 29, 2017
Despite a show of strength and a charm offensive, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government is beginning to show its age. Russia is facing a dangerous protest movement against Putin’s system, and he has responded with heavy-handed crackdowns and winsome public appearances. The message from the Kremlin is clear: Putin is a strong leader and a man of the people. But the message is beginning to sound stale, and a reckoning may be peeking above the horizon. Even before his rise to power, Putin and his elites had been shaping the story behind the Russian leader (More).
Beijing’s Debt Dilemma
Foreign Affairs, June 29, 2017
China’s ballooning corporate debt remains the number one systemic risk to global economic recovery. If the bubble bursts, it will drag down the rest of the world while compromising Chinese Premier Xi Jinping’s grip on power ahead of the Chinese Communist Party congress late in the year. Beijing understands that the debt is hardly sustainable, so over the last two years it has engineered a sophisticated macroeconomic strategy to artificially boost factory prices, increase profits, and ease loan repayments for the most troubled companies (More).
Is It Time to Reassess the U.S.-South Korea Alliance?
The Atlantic, June 29, 2017
The failure of a quarter-century of diplomacy has left the North Korean dictatorship on the cusp of possessing a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile. For the first time since 1953, when the United States committed to protecting the South from another invasion from the North, the American homeland will soon come under direct threat from one of the world’s most ruthless regimes…the United States is at loggerheads with the Kim regime because of its commitment to the South—the alliance is not a symptom of today’s crisis between Washington and Pyongyang (More).
Summit safeguards Indo-US ties from Trump the tweeter
Pramit Pal Chaudhuri
Hindustan Times, June 29, 2017
India has used Trump the president to buffer relations with the United States against Trump the reality TV star. Indian and US officials privately express relief that the Narendra Modi–Donald Trump summit went off smoothly. Fears of the unpredictable can be projected to the entire Indo-US relationship. With Trump broadly endorsing the India line of his predecessors, the room for policy randomness was suitably reduced. That alone made the summit a success as far as Indian officials were concerned (More).
Khmer Rouge Tribunal Ends With Justification, Not Denial
The Cambodia Daily, June 29, 2017
The world has just heard closing arguments in the last active litigation of the series of great human atrocities of the 20th century, this time the Cambodian genocide of 1975 to 1979. Rarely have such trials passed to broad local or international satisfaction, and the much maligned U.N.-sponsored Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) is no exception. Four decades after the horrific death toll of at least 1.5 million during the People’s Republic of Kampuchea, the nine-year tribunal can boast of three convictions of men at the end of their lives at a cost of $300 million (More).
Trump’s South China Sea Policy Leaves U.S. Allies Perplexed—and Anxious
World Politics Review, June 26, 2017
On June 21, the United States and China held their first-ever Diplomatic and Security Dialogue in Washington. The dialogue, co-chaired on the American side by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis, is a new iteration of engagement that evolved from the April meeting between President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, at Mar-a-Lago. Along with other newly created discussions on trade and law enforcement issues, the dialogue is aimed at narrowing the focus of the former U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, which met annually during the Obama administration (More).
Japan and ‘One Belt, One Road’
The Japan Times, June 24, 2017
Reversing his position, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has indicated that Japan is ready to cooperate with China’s “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) initiative for cross-continental infrastructure development under certain conditions. He is also now willing to consider Japan joining the China-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) — of which Japan, along with the United States, sat out when it was set up in 2015 — once doubts about its governance and operation are cleared. While these shifts may be motivated by concerns that Tokyo could be left behind as Beijing and Washington move closer in trying to restrain North Korea, it’s time that Japan also take steps to rebuild its strained ties with China, and cooperating with the Chinese initiatives should be a good start (More).
BRICS cooperation shows strong vitality
Xinhua, June 19, 2017
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said…that the BRICS cooperation has shown strong vitality during the past ten years. Wang made the remarks at the opening ceremony of the meeting of BRICS Ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Relations…He said BRICS cooperation has greater importance, as the five countries’ share in global economy has increased from 12 percent to 23 percent in the past decade while they have contributed more than half of global growth (More).
Mapping Strategic Narratives in the Bay of Bengal Region
Constantino Xavier, Marc Saxer
Carnegie India, June 15, 2017
The idea of Bay of Bengal as a multilateral, strategic, and economic community has engendered multiple interests and narratives around the bay. Therefore, identifying potential areas of cooperation would involve examining the geopolitical landscape manifested in the discourses of this region.Carnegie India’s Bay of Bengal Initiative, in partnership with Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung India, organized a workshop to map the discourses surrounding the Bay in India, which can be used to identify opportunities for cooperation by locating the center of political activity (More).
South Korea Suspends Deployment of U.S. Antimissile System
The New York Times, June 7, 2017
South Korea’s newly elected president, Moon Jae-in, has suspended the deployment of an American missile defense system designed to counter North Korean threats, clearly signaling a less friendly approach to the United States’ agenda than his predecessor’s…The missile defense system, known as Thaad, has been controversial in South Korea and has drawn sharp criticism from China, which views the system’s radar as a threat. China took retaliatory economic measures against South Korea, including curtailing the flow of Chinese tourists and punishing South Korean companies in China (More).
Raja Mandala: Transacting with Trump
The Indian Express, June 6, 2017
Adapting to Trump will not come easily to the Indian system that has refused to be transactional in its approach to the United States over the last two decades. In the process, it missed big opportunities in converting the goodwill of two presidents into tangible gains. Consider the historic civil nuclear initiative offered by Bush. Delhi spent years examining this gift horse in the mouth. Nor has it taken full benefit of the opportunities for defence cooperation with the US and its allies in the last few years. The inability to seize the fleeting moments of opportunity created by Indian diplomacy has long been a characteristic of India’s overall governance (More).
Tokyo proposes reciprocal Abe-Xi visits in 2018
Nikkei Asian Review, June 6, 2017
A Japanese proposal to China…would see Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Xi Jinping pay each other visits next year…The leaders of the two countries have not visited each other in the same year since 2008, when Yasuo Fukuda was Japan’s prime minister and Hu Jintao was China’s president. The hope is that resuming active top-level dialogue will warm the countries’ often-icy ties and deepen economic cooperation. This, in turn, might help the governments smooth things over on more contentious issues, such as security (More).
Myanmar’s peace process and international players
The Nation, June 05, 2017
When the second session of the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference was held last month, China emerged as the most important foreign player. Other countries long associated with the push for peace before the current process took shape have had to fine-tune their roles to ensure the process is inclusive. This is an indigenous effort to end a half century of war between the Tatmadaw and ethnic armed groups. Unlike other peace processes in Southeast Asia and elsewhere, where a third-party mediator or facilitator is often called upon to assist the conflicting groups. However, the current peace effort faces a challenge from assertive outside players, whose core interests would be affected if they remain benign (More).
Trump Hosts Prime Minister Phuc of Vietnam and Announces Trade Deals
The New York Times, May 31, 2017
President Trump welcomed the prime minister of Vietnam to the Oval Office…cutting business deals and discussing the transfer of a Coast Guard cutter to a onetime enemy that the United States now views as a front-line defender against an expansionist China. It was Mr. Trump’s first meeting with the prime minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and the president had warm words for his guest, despite having raised concerns within the Vietnamese government on both economic and security fronts early in his administration (More).
China Woos South Korea’s New Leader, but the U.S. Left Behind a Spoiler
The New York Times, May 31, 2017
When he assumed power in 2013, President Xi Jinping of China tried to court one of America’s main Asian allies, South Korea. It worked for a while. Then the relationship soured…Now Mr. Xi is trying again, wooing South Korea’s new leader, Moon Jae-in, and still hoping to chip away at the American alliance with South Korea and fortify China’s position in Northeast Asia. Mr. Moon, a proponent of engagement with North Korea, is a more natural friend for Mr. Xi than the conservative Ms. Park, who is in jail facing corruption charges (More).
Dialogue suggests China, Japan can find a way out of impasse
China Daily, May 31, 2017
That Beijing and Tokyo both underlined the need to take each other as a potential partner rather than a threat was an important outcome of their just concluded fourth high-level political dialogue. Amid their seemingly endless impasse, that both sides have taken note of the damaging potential of mutual distrust and aspire to improve bilateral relations represents a step toward breaking the deadlock…As everybody knows, there is a long shadow of history that prevents the countries from getting really close, especially under the current leadership in Japan which is unwilling to let the past rest in peace. But that does not mean there is no way out (More).
China, US vie for friendship with the Philippines, while Duterte hedges
Myanmar Times, May 25, 2017
The rapprochement between China and the Philippines has ostensibly avoided the prospect of a confrontation in the South China Sea. On the sidelines of a two-day summit about China’s global development project, held in Beijing on May 14-15, the Philippine ambassador announced plans for talks with China over its territorial claims in the sea. 2016 was one of the most important years in the evolution of the South China Sea dispute. On July 12, the Arbitral Tribunal of the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled overwhelmingly in the Philippines’ favour over the disputed area. China’s worst nightmare materialised in the form of a legal ruling on the dispute. The Philippines successfully exposed the legal weakness of Chinese claims to the territory under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) (More).
TPP revival a boon amid rising protectionism
Chia Yan Min
The Straits Times, May 24, 2017
United States President Donald Trump sounded an apparent death knell for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact in January when he decided to withdraw the world’s largest economy from the 12-nation agreement. But the TPP has got a new lease of life. The remaining signatories, including Singapore, have agreed to move the trade deal forward without the US…It remains to be seen whether the TPP can actually be brought to fruition without the participation of the US, but this revival of its prospects is good news for small, trade-dependent Singapore. (More).
Can the U.S. Pivot Back to Asia?
Foreign Affairs, May 23, 2017
China’s sweeping Belt and Road Initiative, which involves reviving the ancient Silk Road linking Asia to Europe, has become the most visible symbol of China’s rising ambitions. Ever since the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump pulled the plug on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) earlier this year, abandoning its chance to set the rules of international commerce, China has seized the opportunity to prove it can assume the mantle of global economic leadership…Belt and Road is an enormous endeavor…Once complete, the “belt” will include a massive network of highways and railways linking China to Central Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. The “road” will consist of a series of maritime routes between Southeast Asia and Europe (More).
Shangri-La Dialogue should address Asia’s new strategic order
The Straits Times, May 23, 2017
Each year, the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore provides a platform for Washington to affirm America’s strategic commitment to Asia, promote its policies to strengthen United States regional leadership, and push back against China’s encroachments. And it gives America’s friends and allies in Asia an opportunity to line up in support. This year, that won’t be so easy, either for America or its allies…So far the only thing that seems clear is that the Obama-era “Pivot to Asia” slogan is dead. But the evidence suggests that something bigger is happening than just a change in terminology (More).
Atoms for Pyongyang
Richard Rhodes and Michael Shellenberger
Foreign Affairs, May 23, 2017
Earlier this month, U.S. President Donald Trump said that “under the right circumstances,” he would meet with North Korean President Kim Jong Un, who continues to increase his nation’s nuclear arsenal. With the recent election in South Korea of President Moon Jae-in, who campaigned for renewed negotiations between the two Koreas, the circumstances might indeed be just right. Kim Jong Un has repeatedly stated that he wants the same thing North Korea’s previous leaders—his father, Kim Jong Il, and grandfather Kim Il Sung—wanted…North Korea’s president is fully aware that attacking the United States would be tantamount to suicide (More).
Japan-India civil nuclear pact
The Japan Times, May 19, 2017
The Lower House approval of the civil nuclear cooperation pact between Japan and India this week makes it certain that the pact will now take effect, given the chamber’s superiority in endorsing international treaties. However, questions raised and problems pointed out over the pact — including the ambiguities over whether Japan can terminate the accord if India carries out another nuclear test — were left unaddressed as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition pushed it through the Diet. The first such pact Japan has concluded with a country outside of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime was designed to promote exports of the nation’s nuclear power plant technology, but the feasibility of Japanese firms’ overseas nuclear power business is increasingly in doubt (More).
OBOR? Oh boy
The Japan Times, May 18, 2017
For years, China’s leadership followed the guidance of former leader Deng Xiaoping, who urged the country to “hide our capacities … maintain a low profile and never claim leadership.” Last weekend marked the end of that era as President Xi Jinping hosted an international gathering that sought to sell Beijing’s “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR), a multitrillion dollar regional infrastructure initiative. Xi’s “project of the century” has many purposes, not least of which is assertion of China’s leading role in Asia and beyond, a bid to fill a vacuum that is emerging in the wake of the Trump administration’s “America First” approach (More).
Southeast Asia: A Notch in China’s Belt and Road Initiative
Stratfor, May 18, 2017
Southeast Asia is the pivot of China’s sprawling 65-nation Belt and Road Initiative. The region’s growing markets, numerous manufacturing hubs and abundant natural resources offer Beijing a wealth of economic opportunities. But its greater value to China is rooted in geopolitics. As the country’s economy has exploded in recent decades, it has come to rely on external trade routes. Today, one of Beijing’s top priorities is protecting these routes from foreign interdiction, especially in the South China Sea and Strait of Malacca. The chief goal behind China’s Belt and Road Initiative is twofold: To establish secure sea routes from its coast to the Mediterranean Sea and to create alternative supply routes overland to ensure its continued access to foreign markets in the event of a maritime cutoff. Southeast Asia serves both of these ends (More).
Asia in the Trump Era
Foreign Affairs, May/June 2017
Donald Trump ran for office promising to overturn U.S. policy toward Asia. He threatened to launch a trade war against China, calling for a 45 percent tariff on Chinese imports to the United States and promising to label Beijing a currency manipulator. After his election as U.S. president, he broke with four decades of precedent when he spoke to Taiwan’s leader on the phone and declared that the United States might not uphold the “one China” policy—the foundation of U.S.-Chinese ties—under which the United States does not formally recognize the Taiwanese government. On his first full weekday in office, Trump withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the 12-nation, U.S.-led trade deal that many in the American foreign policy establishment saw as crucial to preserving U.S. influence in the region (More).
Raja Mandala: The myth of a political bond
The Indian Express, January 10, 2017
As India’s relations with China continue to head south, Delhi will find it difficult to sustain a core belief about its engagement with Beijing. India has long insisted that Delhi has shared global interests with Beijing and must build on them despite enduring differences on the bilateral level…India’s problem with China is that Delhi’s ideas of shared global interest in the multilateral domain have run into Beijing’s calculus on the regional balance of power in the Subcontinent. If India has let idealism shape its thinking on China, Beijing never stopped seeing Delhi through the lens of realism. It was a deep conviction about shared Asian identity and a common agenda to counter western hegemony and build a multipolar world that has driven India to extend unflinching support to China in the global arena. It received little in return (More).
UAE plan to send paratroopers for Republic Day grounded
The Economic Times, January 10, 2017
The UAE’s proposal to send a military paratrooper team for a live display during the Republic Day parade was grounded after the Indian side shared security concerns and pointed out that the weather may play spoilsport. Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is the chief guest at the parade…while the plan for the paratrooper team to skydive on Rajpath could not be taken forward, India requested UAE for a marching contingent and a military band for the parade. If accepted, this would be the second time that a foreign military contingent would take part in India’s annual Republic Day parade…Following PM Narendra Modi’s visit in 2015, Indian defence delegations have made several visits, exploring ways of enhancing cooperation. India also sees UAE as a major potential defence export destination (More).
Time for a U.S.-Japanese Free Trade Agreement?
Foreign Affairs, January 9, 2017
Days before U.S. President-elect Donald Trump takes office, there are few that hold out hope for the survival of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama’s failure to push the 12-nation pact through the U.S. Congress allowed it to become a political football in the 2016 presidential election, disavowed by both Trump and his opponent, Hillary Clinton…Some of Trump’s senior advisers…have declared that the TPP will not be resurrected. Other voices…have supported the TPP in the past and indicated that it might be renegotiated. Having made a public announcement just after the election that he intends to withdraw from the TPP on “day one,” however, Trump will find it difficult to back down, at least without a backup plan. Such a backup plan has already been hinted at by the president-elect, who on multiple occasions has noted his preference for transparent bilateral trade agreements that do not harm U.S. workers (More).
India is a major strategic partner, and will remain so, says French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault
The Times of India, January 8, 2017
India is laying a great deal of emphasis on the Indian Ocean region…”We have major shared ambitions regarding maritime security and cooperation in the Indian Ocean. Of course, France is also an Indian Ocean country, because of Reunion Island. France has always considered India to be an essential partner for regional stability and security. Our two countries work together, be it cooperation between our navies or industrial matters. We regularly hold an annual bilateral dialogue to strengthen our relations in this area. In fact, its next session will take place in Delhi in a few days’ time.” (More)
Muted U.S. Response to China’s Seizure of Drone Worries Asian Allies
The New York Times, December 18, 2016
Only a day before a small Chinese boat sidled up to a United States Navy research vessel in waters off the Philippines and audaciously seized an underwater drone from American sailors, the commander of United States military operations in the region told an audience in Australia that America had a winning military formula…In the eyes of America’s friends in Asia, the brazen maneuver to launch an operation against an American Navy vessel in international waters in the South China Sea about 50 miles from the Philippines, another close American ally, has raised questions about one of the admiral’s crucial words. It was also seen by some as a taunt to President-elect Donald J. Trump, who has challenged the One China policy on Taiwan and has vowed to deal forcefully with Beijing in trade and other issues (More).
Breakthrough in Japan, Russia islands row eludes PM Abe, Putin
Kiyoshi Takenaka and Katya Golubkova
Reuters, December 18, 2016
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin wrapped up two days of talks on Friday, with numerous economic deals but no big breakthrough on a territorial row that has over-shadowed ties since World War Two…Abe and Putin agreed to launch talks on joint economic activities on disputed islands at the centre of the territorial row as a step toward concluding a peace treaty formally ending World War Two, the two sides said in a joint statement. The islands in the Western Pacific, called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kuriles in Russia, were seized by Soviet forces at the end of World War Two and 17,000 Japanese residents were forced to flee. The dispute over their sovereignty has prevented the two countries signing a peace treaty (More).
Welcome to the age of hyper-uncertainty
The Japan Times, December 18, 2016
The year 2017 will mark the 40th anniversary of the publication of John Kenneth Galbraith’s “The Age of Uncertainty.”…In 1977, as Galbraith was writing, the world was still reeling from the effects of the first OPEC oil price shock and wondering whether another one was in the pipeline (as it were). The United States was confronting slowing growth and accelerating inflation, or stagflation, a novel problem that raised questions about policymakers’ competence and the adequacy of their economic models. Meanwhile, efforts to rebuild the Bretton Woods international monetary system had collapsed, casting a shadow over prospects for international trade and global economic growth. For all these reasons, the golden age of stability and predictability that was the third quarter of the 20th century seemed to have abruptly drawn to a close, to be succeeded by a period of greatly heightened uncertainty (More).
As Trump riles China, Taiwan tallies defense costs
Reuters, December 16, 2016
Trump’s suggestion that the “one China” principle – that Taiwan is a part of China – was up for negotiation has already prompted saber-rattling from Chinese state media and some in the military establishment. Taipei’s ability to mitigate any military action by China will be severely limited by its weak economy and a tiny domestic arms industry that will take years to build up. And even if the United States – Taiwan’s sole arms supplier – agrees to sell the advanced weaponry the island needs to deter a Chinese attack, Taipei will struggle to pay the bill, government advisers and experts say…The ability of Taiwan to defend itself, and the willingness of the United States to help it, have been brought into sharp relief since President-elect Trump accepted an unprecedented phone call from President Tsai early this month (More).
A step forward for Japan-Russia ties
The Japan Times, December 16, 2016
The closely watched summit between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin did not appear to have produced any concrete progress on the long-standing territorial row over the group of islands off Hokkaido that were seized by Soviet forces at the end of World War II, which has prevented the two countries from concluding a formal peace treaty. Instead, Abe and Putin emphasized that joint economic activities on the disputed islands as well as a range of economic cooperation between the two countries that they agreed on in their two days of talks will help build mutual confidence and contribute to ending the “extraordinary” situation that Tokyo and Moscow lack a peace treaty seven decades after the war’s end (More).
Indonesia’s Joko Widodo visits Delhi: Civilisational siblings are on the road to mutual rediscovery
The Times of India, December 15, 2016
Political leaders, officials and academics alike tend to portray India and Indonesia as “natural partners”. Most of them also recognise that in contemporary times, the relationship has not been progressing to its full potential. The visit to India by President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, reflects both recognition of this reality and the two nations’ shared desire for course correction. It has produced a reasonable outcome, fuelling optimism about the future. As two of the world’s populous countries, Asian democracies committed to pluralism, close maritime neighbours, and emerging economies with strong complementarities, India and Indonesia have much in common (More).
India, Indonesia to prioritise defence ties: PM Modi
The Times of India, December 12, 2016
In a joint media address with visiting Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Modi said the two nations share the value of “democracy, diversity and social harmony” and have nurtured “strong bonds of business and culture”…India and Indonesia signed three agreements following delegation-level talks here headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting Indonesian President Joko Widodo… This is the first presidential visit from Indonesia to India in nearly six years since the visit of then President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in January 2011 (More).
Hedging against uncertainties in the age of Trump
The Straits Times, November 29, 2016
For many years now, Asia’s smaller and middle powers have pursued a policy of “hedging” against strategic uncertainty. The uncertainty they worried about was the possibility that Beijing, as its power grew, might try to replace the old US-led order in Asia with a new, more China-centred one. Their response was to engage China economically and politically, but at the same time to draw closer to the US strategically. They hoped this would bolster Washington’s capacity and willingness to resist Beijing’s strategic ambitions if they did indeed grow. Stronger links with the United States have been South-east Asia’s – and Australia’s – hedge against the possibility of a more threatening China (More).
China’s Infrastructure Play
Foreign Affairs, September/October 2016 Issue
Over the past three millennia, China has made three attempts to project its economic power westward. The first began in the second century BC, during the Han dynasty, when China’s imperial rulers developed the ancient Silk Road to trade with the far-off residents of Central Asia and the Mediterranean basin; the fall of the Mongol empire and the rise of European maritime trading eventually rendered that route obsolete. In the fifteenth century AD, the maritime expeditions of Admiral Zheng. He connected Ming-dynasty China to the littoral states of the Indian Ocean. But China’s rulers recalled Zheng’s fleet less than three decades after it set out, and for the rest of imperial history, they devoted most of their attention to China’s neighbors to the east and south. Today, China is undertaking a third turn to the west—its most ambitious one yet. In 2013, Beijing unveiled a plan to connect dozens of economies across Eurasia and East Africa through a series of infrastructure investments known as the Belt and Road Initiative (More).
An Australian “China Choice”? No. But Multiple China Choices, Yes.
The National Interest, September 11, 2016
A senior U.S. Army officer recently generated headlines on both sides of the Pacific by highlighting the strategic and economic challenges facing Australia today. Keen to maintain close ties with both their American ally and their chief economic partner in China, Australian officials are today conscious of the potential tensions that lie ahead… the notion that there is a looming “China choice” facing Australia is gathering support among portions of its strategic elite… The reality is more complex. An all-or-nothing China choice would damage both Australian and American interests, and in Canberra such a dilemma should be viewed as a policy failure rather than the inevitable outcome of economics and geopolitical competition. Rather than single, stark option, Australia will instead face a series of “China choices” on discrete issues that require Canberra to balance its economic and security risk. And therein lie the challenges (More).
New politics of discourse – more humility and respect
The Nation, September 12, 2016
The way Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte responded to US questioning of his government’s handling of the anti-narcotics campaign showed that future relations between the world’s most powerful country and its closest Southeast Asian ally are shifting fast. In the past, both the US and Philippines were more tolerant with each others’ misgivings – even their nincompoop leaders. Those times have gone. Aside from the Philippines, no country in this part of the world is willing now to accept or tolerate Washington’s criticism of their conduct on serious issues impacting on the social fabric – be it drugs, human trafficking, human rights, among others. This year’s US presidential campaigning and all the toxic comments made by candidates about America and its neighbours have added salt to the wounds. American creditability overseas is currently at a low level (More).
Pakistan-Russia military to hold first ever joint drills
The Economic Times, September 12, 2016
Pakistan and Russia are set to hold their first-ever joint military exercises later this year …reflecting increased military cooperation between the two former Cold War rivals. Around 200 military personnel from the two sides would take part in the joint military exercises…The move comes amidst increasing defence ties between Moscow and Islamabad as the latter was also thinking to buy advanced Russian warplanes…The joint military drill is seen as another step in growing military-to-military cooperation, indicating a steady growth in bilateral relationship between the two countries, whose ties had been marred by Cold War rivalry for decades… Islamabad is eager to improve its ties with Moscow to diversify its options in the event of any stalemate in ties with Washington (More).
Beijing and Moscow launch South China Sea naval drills
Al Jazeera, September 12, 2016
China and Russia have launched eight days of naval drills in the South China Sea in a sign of growing cooperation between the countries’ armed forces against the backdrop of regional territorial disputes. The exercises come at a time of heightened tension in the contested waters after a UN-backed tribunal ruled in July that China did not have historic rights to the South China Sea and criticised its environmental destruction there. China rejected the ruling and refused to participate in the case. The “Joint Sea-2016” war games will include exercises on “seizing and controlling” islands and shoals, according to Chinese navy spokesman Liang Yang. They will involve surface ships, submarines, fixed-wing aircraft, ship-borne helicopters, marine corps and amphibious armoured equipment from both navies, he said in a statement (More).
Keep the Pressure on Myanmar
The New York Times, September 13, 2016
When Myanmar’s leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, meets with President Obama and members of Congress in Washington this week, one of the items for discussion will be easing the remaining American sanctions on Myanmar. That may be a tempting move, given recent efforts by Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi to end ethnic conflict and the persecution of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group, but it would be a mistake to lift all remaining sanctions now…Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has taken steps to heal Myanmar’s ethnic divisions. On Aug. 31, she convened a peace conference to bring together the country’s armed ethnic groups in hopes of ending decades of conflict. This month, at the invitation of her government, a team led by Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general, began looking into the plight of the Rohingya. This is an important step given Myanmar’s dismal human rights record (More).
Fishing Boat Diplomacy
Foreign Affairs, September 14, 2016
One of the greatest risks to world peace is a clash at sea between the United States and China. The risk of confrontation has grown steadily as Chinese power has increased, and especially since 2012, when China’s current leader, Xi Jinping, took power and introduced a far more assertive approach to China’s disputed territorial claims in the East and South China Seas. In East Asia’s littoral regions, China’s naval capabilities now rival those of the United States, and Beijing has proved itself increasingly willing to threaten close U.S. allies such as Japan with belligerent rhetoric…U.S.-Chinese maritime relations are based on more than frigates and fringing reefs. Wise handling of those relations should build on preexisting but little-known efforts to improve bilateral cooperation in the global ocean commons (More).
Six takeaways from Asean summits
Tang Siew Mun
The Straits Times, September 15, 2016
Despite hiccups such as the 49th Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) in July – where a debacle was narrowly averted by a last-gasp consensus on the joint communique – the 28th and 29th Asean Summits and related summits passed without any overt flaring of acrimony or debilitating discord that the world has come to expect at Asean meetings of late… there were strong doubts about Laos’ ability to carry out its duties objectively and not buckle to Chinese pressure when it assumed the Asean chairmanship in January…That the summits went smoothly was due to Laos’ commendable stewardship, which surprised many Asean watchers. Given that it remains highly dependent on China for trade and investment, Laos was expected to pander to Chinese interests. Instead, it showed that strategic proximity with China and the objective dispensation of Asean chairing duties were not mutually exclusive propositions (More).
Why Vietnam has India in its sights
The Interpreter, September 15, 2016
Despite the publicity generated in May when President Obama visited Vietnam and lifted the arms embargo, the US remains on a lower rung of co-operation, a comprehensive partner and only that since 2013 when President Obama met his then-counterpart Truong Tan Sang… India is a good and rather obvious choice for stronger ties. There is a long history of friendship between the two (as there is between Russia and Vietnam), and the nations have had diplomatic relations for 45 years. …more recently Modi stopped off in Vietnam on the way to the G20. What came of that visit might prove to be more substantive if less immediately noteworthy: after 10 years of strategic partnership India has become Vietnam’s third comprehensive strategic partner (More).
The Changing Face of ASEAN
The Diplomat, September 15, 2016
With much of ASEAN stuck in the economic doldrums and its senior members beset with issues ranging from unprecedented levels of corruption to violent insurgencies and maritime disputes with China, the regional bloc has known better days… a more common sense approach to the region’s increasingly complex political dynamics appears to have accompanied leadership change. The electoral victory of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy in Mynamar (and her subsequent appointment as state counselor) plus the appointments of Bounnhang Vorachith as president of Laos and Nguyễn Xuân Phúc as the new prime minister in Vietnam may well have ushered in a surprising new era (More).
China, ASEAN aim to complete framework of South China Sea rules next year
Reuters, August 17, 2016
Since 2010, China and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have been discussing a set of rules aimed at avoiding conflict among rival claimants in the busy waterway…Last month, an arbitration court in the Hague ruled that China had no historic title over the South China Sea and had breached the Philippines’ sovereign rights there. The decision infuriated Beijing, which dismissed the court’s authority…Meeting in northeastern China, the two sides agreed to get the framework for the code of conduct done by mid-2017, and also approved guidelines for a China-ASEAN hotline for use during maritime emergencies (More).
Understanding Vietnam’s rocket launcher deployment in the Spratlys
Le Hong Hiep
The Straits Times, August 17, 2016
Last week, international media widely reported that Vietnam had quietly deployed an unknown number of Extended Range Artillery (Extra) rocket launchers on five features in the Spratlys. These state-of-the-art mobile rocket artillery systems are reportedly capable of striking runways and military installations on nearby artificial islands built by China recently.
Although Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the information as “inaccurate”, its Deputy Defence Minister Nguyen Chi Vinh had stated in June this year that Hanoi reserved the right to deploy such weapons for self-defence purposes…Vietnam’s deployment of the rocket launchers should not come as a surprise. Instead, it is a logical development, given the recent trajectory of the South China Sea dispute (More).
China’s Defiance in the South China Sea
The New York Times, August 13, 2016
In last month’s decision, a five-judge panel in The Hague ruled unanimously that China had no legal basis to claim longstanding rights over most of the South China Sea, which is rich in resources and carries out $5 trillion in annual trade… From the start, China refused to participate in the tribunal proceedings and has since refused to accept the ruling, while showing its defiance in numerous ways…The waterway is too strategically important and the disputes too complex for the competing claims by China and five other countries in the region to be quickly resolved. Yet provocations continue, raising questions about China’s commitment to the rule of law and heightening fears of a wider conflict (More).
A Line In the Sea
Robert A. Manning and James Przystup
Foreign Affairs, August 10, 2016
Some skirmish in the South China Sea could well become for Asia in the twenty-first century what the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand was for Europe in 1914—a trigger for a broader conflict between a rising power and the established order. And such a scenario looks all the more likely after the July 12 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, which negated the very basis of China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. Beijing’s response in the weeks that followed—nationalist venting and overt rejection of the ruling through military exercises—undermines once and for all China’s claims about its peaceful rise…the ruling at The Hague does offer Beijing a chance to rethink the complex issues of sovereignty in the South China Sea…The July 12 decision has created a new status quo by clearly defining the legal map of the South China Sea. It found no lawful basis for China’s claims to 85 percent of the South China Sea, delimited by the so-called nine-dash line (More).
Beijing’s South China Sea Moves Vex U.S. Pacific Fleet Chief
The Wall Street Journal, August 9, 2016
The commander of U.S. naval forces in the Pacific, Adm. Scott Swift said China had taken several destabilizing steps in the South China Sea—including conducting air patrols and announcing joint drills there with Russia—since a tribunal ruling against Beijing’s maritime claims in July…also cited recent activities by Chinese fishing vessels in the East China Sea and reports that Beijing had erected hangars for military aircraft on artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea…China says the tribunal had no jurisdiction on the case, and Chinese President Xi Jinping has said Beijing won’t accept any proposition or action based on the ruling…Some experts and diplomats see signs that Beijing is starting to escalate its activities in disputed waters. Japan formally protested to China over the weekend, accusing Beijing of installing radar on an offshore gas platform in the East China Sea and of sending fishing and coast-guard vessels into waters around disputed islands there. China says it has sovereignty over the area (More).
After the Ruling: Lawfare in the South China Sea
The Diplomat, August 03, 2016
In April 2012, around a then-relatively unknown shoal off the coast of the Philippines’ largest island of Luzon, the Philippine Navy apprehended several Chinese fishing vessels. Though it was not known at the time, this incident at Scarborough Shoal would simmer into a major stand-off between the Philippines and China over the ensuing months, eventually sparking the contemporary period of tension and geopolitical intrigue in the South China Sea… That arbitration, which China refused to participate in, has lingered over the South China Sea in the three-and-half years since. Amid continuing Chinese assertiveness in the region, including island-building in the Spratly group and continued militarization of its Paracel possessions, the resolution of the case loomed large (More).
Southeast Asian Bloc Finds Unity on South China Sea Dispute
The Wall Street Journal, July 25, 2016
Southeast Asian nations rallied…to form a united position on the South China Sea dispute after weeks of division, but maneuvering by China kept their 10-country bloc from mentioning a legal ruling against Beijing’s sweeping claims in the strategic waters. The outcome let both parties conclude a day of diplomatic meetings on an upbeat note, even if they remained apart on resolving a dispute that has shorn goodwill between several members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and their largest trading partner (More).
Parting the South China Sea
Foreign Affairs, July 22, 2016
July 12, 2016, marked a turning point in the long-standing disputes over the South China Sea. After more than three years of proceedings at the Permanent Court of Arbitration, an international body in The Hague, a tribunal constituted under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) issued a widely anticipated decision in a case the Philippines brought in 2013 to challenge China’s maritime claims to most of the contested waterway… The tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines on almost every count, declaring nearly all of China’s maritime claims in the region invalid under international law. In so doing, the tribunal has brought a substantial amount of new clarity to a number of contentious legal issues and has set precedents that will affect the law of the sea for years to come (More).
Beijing’s South China Sea militarization becoming fait accompli: defense paper
The Japan Times, July 21, 2016
Japan will express its wariness over China’s muscle-flexing in the South China Sea in this year’s defense white paper, warning Beijing’s militarization of the disputed waters is making its territorial claims a fait accompli… The white paper, which the Cabinet is expected to approve early next month, will say China’s activities in the South China Sea could be called high-handed, unilateral action to change the status quo. The outline also says China’s activities are intensifying near the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. China also claims those uninhabited islets, which it calls Diaoyu. It notes that a Chinese navy ship last month sailed in a contiguous zone just outside the territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands (More).
Can ‘The Punisher’ Bring Peace to the Philippines?
Stratfor, July 21, 2016
Newly elected Philippine Pesident Rodrigo Duterte has a hard-earned reputation as a man who can make the guns go silent. During his 22-year stint as the mayor of Davao City, Duterte ruthlessly took on local troublemakers, transforming what was once the country’s murder capital into one of its safest cities. In May, Philippine voters overwhelmingly looked past the human rights abuses that “The Punisher” allegedly employed to get such results, vaulting him to the highest office in the land. As president, Duterte will face much bigger security challenges. And though he may be better positioned than his predecessors to quell the country’s myriad internal security woes, a lasting peace is likely to remain elusive (More).
U.S. Hypocrisy in the South China Sea
Foreign Affairs, July 14, 2016
On July 12, in a long-awaited verdict, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled unanimously in favor of the Philippines, which had submitted a 15-point case to the tribunal in January 2013 opposing several of China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. The tribunal agreed with the Philippines that “China had violated the Philippines’s sovereign rights” by building artificial islands and restricting the movements of Filipino petroleum explorers and fishermen within the Philippine’s exclusive economic zone, among other infractions. Most importantly, the tribunal concluded that “there [is] no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line,’” a boundary China created by removing two dashes, after a dispute with Vietnam, from the “11-dash line” that first appeared in a 1947 document published by the Chinese nationalist government. It’s an important boundary since most estimates suggest that it envelops 85 to 90 percent of the South China Sea (More).
Why is the South China Sea contentious?
BBC, July 12, 2016
Rival countries have wrangled over territory in the South China Sea for centuries, but tension has steadily increased in recent years. China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei all have competing claims. China has backed its expansive claims with island-building and naval patrols. The US says it does not take sides in territorial disputes, but has sent military ships and planes near disputed islands, calling them “freedom of navigation” operations to ensure access to key shipping and air routes. Both sides have accused each other of “militarising” the South China Sea. There are fears that the area is becoming a flashpoint, with potentially serious global consequences (More).
Raja-Mandala: Drawing a line in the sea
The Indian Express, July 12, 2016
China’s rejection of international arbitration raises questions. Delhi’s reaction must focus on need to de-escalate conflict in South China Sea. More than three years ago, the Philippines, which was locked in an escalating territorial dispute with China over the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, decided to go court. China refused to participate in the proceedings at The Hague and called them a “farce”. Beijing has declared it will not accept the ruling from the PCA… China has launched naval exercises in the South China Sea. It has embarked on a massive political campaign to challenge the legitimacy of the arbitration and defend its expansive claims over the South China Sea (More).
Beijing rejects tribunal’s ruling in South China Sea case
Tom Phillips, Oliver Holmes and Owen Bowcott
The Guardian, July 12, 2016
China has said it will not accept a ruling against it in a key international legal case over strategic reefs and atolls that Beijing claims would give it control over disputed waters of the South China Sea. The judgment by an international tribunal in The Hague came down overwhelmingly in favour of claims by the Philippines and is likely to increase global diplomatic pressure on Beijing to scale back military expansion in the area. By depriving certain outcrops of territorial-generating status, the ruling from the permanent court of arbitration effectively punches holes in China’s all-encompassing “nine-dash” line that stretches deep into the South China Sea (More).
The Real Seoul Story
Times of India, June 27, 2016
What happened at the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) plenary in Seoul? Much misinformation (even disinformation) is floating around New Delhi and for three reasons. First, the issues are complex and require context, which many may not have. Second, the political opposition to BJP is understandably using the occasion to target the Narendra Modi government and making partial assessments. Third, the Chinese propaganda mechanism has turned much more sophisticated in an intelligent and selective briefing of Indian media. This presents a challenge for India, but that is getting ahead of the story….Why did India apply now? A sympathetic American president is ending his term. His successor may be preoccupied at the time of the next NSG plenary in 2017. In 2018, India will be in election mode and the Modi government may have less leverage. As such, it was 2016 – or it was a kick down the road (More).
China Tells U.S., Don’t Let Allies set South China Sea Policy
Reuters, June 2, 2016
The United States should not decide its policy on the South China Sea based on what its allies think, and should stick to its promises not to take sides in the dispute, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Thursday ahead of Sino-U.S. security talks. China has been angered by what it views as provocative U.S. military patrols close to islands China controls in the South China Sea. The United States says the patrols are to protect freedom of navigation…..Speaking at a forum ahead of next week’s high-level meetings with U.S. officials in Beijing, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang said his country had every right to protect its sovereignty and maritime rights in the South China Sea. “In fact the United States is not a claimant in the South China Sea dispute, and its said it takes no position on territorial disputes,” Zheng said. “So we hope the U.S. can stick to its promises and not choose sides, but can set its position based on the rights and wrongs of the case rather than whether somebody is an ally,” he added (More).
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Seventy-one years ago, on a bright, cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed. A flash of light and a wall of fire destroyed a city and demonstrated that mankind possessed the means to destroy itself. …Why do we come to this place, to Hiroshima? We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in a not so distant past. We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 in Japanese men, women and children; thousands of Koreans; a dozen Americans held prisoner. Their souls speak to us. They ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are and what we might become (More).
The China Basket
The Dawn, 13 June 2016
One, even as One Belt, One Highway offers historic economic possibilities — and not just the CPEC road and energy stuff — our security-centric world is nudging it towards becoming primarily a security-based project. Two, we seem prematurely willing to ratchet down ties with the US — and wholly closed off to the idea of being a valued and valuable interlocutor between China and the US down the road. Run with the American hare, hunt with the Chinese hound and keep both eyes on India — it should not only be possible, but the goal itself. But the security state seems to have other ideas (More).
A Himalayan balancing act
The Hindu, July 1, 2016
The compass of bilateral relations with China needs to be carefully set by India…The great Himalayan Divide between India and China was in evidence last week following the Chinese refusal to support India’s case for entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group. While non-entry into the Group is not the end of the world, for India lives to fight another day, of concern is what the Chinese stance implies for the bilateral relationship between the two Asian giants. This is a relationship that has been assiduously tended over the years since the mid-seventies when ambassadorial relations between the two countries were restored at the initiative of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Despite the humiliation suffered in 1962, she famously opined that “we cannot march to Peking” and that normalisation of relations constituted the triumph of maturity over the futility of alienation (More).
Raja-Mandala: Modi govt’s renewed efforts for NSG membership are worth following
C. Raja Mohan
The Indian Express, June 28, 2016
The Narendra Modi government is not easily rattled by disapproving noises. China says it does not like India’s song about joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group. But India has rightly decided to play it again. Undeterred by Chinese opposition in Seoul, India is getting ready for Vienna, where the NSG might meet in a special session to consider India’s membership later this year… The Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations, working with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi, explored ways to resolve the irreconcilable contradiction between a non-proliferation regime built around the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and an India that can’t sign the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state (More).
Why Chabahar Deal is a Rebellion Against History
The Indian Express, May 27, 2016
Few in India have fully grasped the radical ambition that underlies Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to sign on to the $ 500 million project to transform the small Iranian port of Chabahar into a hub for Indian business. …The deal, signed in Tehran this week, will see India financing the construction of a $ 85 million port, building aluminum and urea plants, and underwriting the construction of a railway line to link it to Iran’s network. It is, for India, far more than a geostrategic gambit — it is, in fact, a revolt against history (More).
China to Send Nuclear-Armed Submarines into Pacific Amid Tensions with US
The Guardian, May 26, 2016
The Chinese military is poised to send submarines armed with nuclear missiles into the Pacific Ocean for the first time, arguing that new US weapons systems have so undermined Beijing’s existing deterrent force that it has been left with no alternative….Chinese military officials are not commenting on the timing of a maiden patrol, but insist the move is inevitable….They point to plans unveiled in March to station the US Thaad anti-ballistic system in South Korea, and the development of hypersonic glide missiles potentially capable of hitting China less than an hour after launch, as huge threats to the effectiveness of its land-based deterrent force (More).
NDA at 2: Modi’s Unexpected Successes in Foreign Policy
Ashley J Tellis
The Hindustan Times, May 25, 2016
Exactly two years ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi surprised both Indian and foreign observers by inviting the South Asian heads of government to his swearing-in. For a leader who had barely uttered a word about foreign policy during his election campaign, this dramatic and welcome gesture presaged the first of many foreign policy surprises that Modi would unveil….Viewed at the two-year mark of his term in office, Modi’s foreign policy achievements have been outstanding. Some of his initiatives have admittedly fallen short, the attempted rapprochement with Pakistan being a conspicuous example. But even this exception does not besmirch the larger record. More than anything else, it signals India’s return to a sensible activism in fashioning the world about it and, just as importantly, is driven boldly by the imperative of securing India’s interests first (More).
Japan Enters South China Sea Dispute
Asia Sentinel, May 24, 2016
In the coming months, the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague is set to issue its judgment on the case brought by the Philippines that challenges China’s claims in the South China Sea. Beijing appears to be anticipating an unfavorable ruling and is reaffirming its stance on the illegitimacy of the UN tribunal……Mindful of its own tensions with Beijing in the East China Sea, and of the importance of avoiding a split between Asia and the Pacific, Tokyo is now stepping forward to take the lead in strengthening policy coordination on maritime security. Japan is pioneering a civilian power approach that may offer an alternative to military solutions….With financial backing from the Japan International Cooperation Agency, or JICA, the nation is trying to strengthen the region’s civilian law-enforcement apparatus. One major initiative is a new master’s program in “Maritime Safety and Security Policy,” jointly administered by the Japan Coast Guard, JCG, and the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (More).
Emerging Flashpoints in the Himalayas
IDSA Issue Brief, May 18, 2016
Flashpoints in the Himalayan region are rising. The US Defence Department has expressed caution about China’s increased troops build-up along the Indian border as well as the likelihood of China establishing “additional naval logistic hubs” in Pakistan.1 From the Chinese perspective, the spectre of jihadi terrorism is spreading across Xinjiang province. The monks in Tibet continue to resist China’s military suppression. Pakistan, for its part, continues to sponsor terrorism in Kashmir with China’s tacit support. In Nepal, the vortex of the political crisis refuses to stop….At the root of most of the troubles on the Indian side is the Tibetan standoff. For years, the subtlety of Lamaism – the main powerhouse of Tibetan politics – has taken an intricate sectarian context. Tension that has been festering around it for decades is now getting murkier and complex by the day, and this is clearly happening not without Chinese prompting (More).
Indian Defence Research and Development (R&D): Transitioning from ‘Make in India’ to ‘Made in India’
Synergy: Journal of the Center for Joint Warfare Studies, December 2015, pp. 45-62.
Currently about 60% of India’s defence equipment is procured from abroad. There are imminent risks of such a situation to India’s national security as seen during the 1965, 1971 Indo-Pak Wars and 1999 Kargil conflict. The success of the “Make in India” programme is critical to increase the share of defence equipment produced within the country. International arms suppliers are however unlikely to undertake complete transfer of technology especially in critical materials and technologies…The article argues that in the long term, there is no alternative to strengthening domestic defence research and development (R&D) if the larger objective of increasing self-reliance in defence has to be met. The article flags three bottlenecks which need to be done away with in order to strengthen India’s domestic R&D efforts. These include adequate long-term funding for research & development; augmentation of national capacity and capability to support R&D efforts; and compressing development timelines and ensuring quicker induction of the platform into the Services in large numbers (More).
The Fusion of Civilizations: The Case for Global Optimism
Kishore Mahbubani and Lawrence H. Summers
Foreign Affairs, May/June 2016
By most objective measures of human well-being, the past three decades have been the best in history. More and more people in more and more places are enjoying better lives than ever before. Nor is this an accident—because despite Samuel Huntington’s foreboding, what has occurred over recent generations is not a clash of civilizations but a fusion of civilizations. ..To put it simply, the great world civilizations, which used to have detached and separate identities, now have increasingly overlapping areas of commonality. Most people around the world now have the same aspirations as the Western middle classes: they want their children to get good educations, land good jobs, and live happy, productive lives as members of stable, peaceful communities. Instead of feeling depressed, the West should be celebrating its phenomenal success at injecting the key elements of its worldview into other great civilizations. (More)
What a Clinton or Trump presidency means for Singapore
Strait Times, May 15, 2016
If there is a far and away best person in the White House to give Singapore an easier time, it would be Mrs Hillary Clinton. The Democratic front runner has championed a stronger role for the US around the world, which dovetails with Singapore’s desire for an American presence in the region to balance against China. Going by the presumptive Republican nominee’s speeches on the campaign trail so far, the 69-year-old looks set to turn America’s attention away from foreign relations to focus on home. Or he may rock the boat and shake up the United States’ ties with key players such as China and Japan. (More)
Obama’s visit to Hiroshima
The Japan Times, May 11, 2016
The upcoming visit to Hiroshima by U.S. President Barack Obama — the first by a sitting president of the sole country in the world to have used nuclear weapons in warfare to the city that experienced the first nuclear attack in history 71 years ago — will be significant if it indeed serves to rebuild the momentum for efforts to create a world free of nuclear arms, which Obama himself advocated at the beginning of his presidency (More).
Raja Mandala: Message from the Maha Kumbh
Indian Express, May 10, 2016
Delhi and its diplomatic establishment took a somewhat bemused and detached view of this growing spiritual engagement between India and the world. Prime Minister Modi, however, appears to have taken a conscious decision to integrate religion into India’s diplomacy. In the last two years, he has taken a number of steps in this direction. His worship at the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu and prayers at a Buddhist temple in Kyoto during 2014 were, at once, acts of personal religiosity and part of a conscious strategy to deepen the links with the people of these countries. His decision to invite the visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the Ganga worship in Varanasi last year and the invitations to the presidents of Nepal and Sri Lanka to join the Maha Kumbh celebrations in Ujjain this week are one part of the unfolding story of religion and the new Indian diplomacy. The diplomatic campaign to get the United Nations to declare June 21 as the International Yoga Day is another. (More)
Raja-Mandala: Trading places
Indian Express, March 9, 2016
India has long irritated its international interlocutors by its penchant for “public diplomacy”. What we mean by public diplomacy here is somewhat different from the current usage of the term — about informing and influencing public opinion at home and abroad. It used to be called “propaganda” in the old days. Our reference here is to the style of public argumentation that marked India’s engagement with the world over the decades. New Delhi’s mandarins privileged public posturing over tough but outcome-oriented negotiating strategies…..In the last few months though, Delhi and Washington have begun to trade places. Delhi now speaks a lot less in public and Washington can’t stop talking. If Indian media complains that official Delhi doesn’t keep them in the loop, Washington is trying to conduct negotiations with India through the Indian media…… As the question of joint patrols gains salience every day in the South China Sea, Delhi and Washington certainly need intensive consultations on how to deal with Beijing’s forward policy in Asia’s waters. But America’s needless public diplomacy has only complicated Indian decision-making on the subject (Read More)
China’s Sweeping Military Reform
The Japan Times, March 8, 2016
China has embarked on a major reform of its armed forces at a time when it is stepping up its maritime military presence, as exemplified by its recent deployment of surface-to-air missiles and radar on one of the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. China says that it will maintain its “defensive national defense policy.” But these moves are certain to raise suspicions among its regional neighbors as well as the United States. Beijing needs to explain in plain terms how these moves can be compatible with what it claims to be “defensive” defense policy. It also needs to make its defense spending more transparent by presenting its weapons procurement programs in concrete terms. A lack of clear explanations on the part of China will only raise tensions with other nations (Read More).
Eurasia’s Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan
Foreign Affairs, March/April 2016
As China asserts itself in its nearby seas and Russia wages war in Syria and Ukraine, it is easy to assume that Eurasia’s two great land powers are showing signs of newfound strength. But the opposite is true: increasingly, China and Russia flex their muscles not because they are powerful but because they are weak. ……In China and Russia, it is domestic insecurity that is breeding belligerence. This marks a historical turning point: for the first time since the Berlin Wall fell, the United States finds itself in a competition among great powers….Economic conditions in both China and Russia are steadily worsening. Ever since energy prices collapsed in 2014, Russia has been caught in a serious recession. China, meanwhile, has entered the early stages of what promises to be a tumultuous transition away from double-digit annual GDP growth; the stock market crashes it experienced in the summer of 2015 and January 2016 will likely prove a mere foretaste of the financial disruptions to come (Read More).
DPRK’s Nuclear Defiance Means Sunset for Sunshine Policy
East Asia Forum 8 March 2016
North Korea’s relations with the wider world have taken a tangible turn for the worse. Pyongyang’s double whammy of a nuclear test on 6 January 2016 followed by a satellite launch on 7 February 2016 was arguably nothing new. The Kim regime has conducted both kinds of tests regularly for a decade, each time condemned and sanctioned by the UN Security Council (UNSC). There was no reason to hope Kim Jong-un was about to change his spots…. The difference now is that two major interlocutors have lost patience. South Korea and the United States have had enough of North Korea’s recidivism. Seoul surprised everyone, including Pyongyang, by shutting the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) — the last remaining inter-Korean joint venture, just north of the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) (Read More).
Australia’s 2016 Defense White Paper: forward funded defense
PacNet #23, CSIS, March 01, 2016
If one word can sum up the 2016 Australian Defence White Paper (DWP 2016), it is “forward.” The document is more “forward” than its predecessors in terms of projected funding commitments and the dizzying time-scales and costs involved in delivering complex platforms like submarines and frigates. More controversially, since ‘forward defence’ has Vietnam-era connotations in Australia, it also signals a more geographically forward defence posture and pattern of engagement in the region. An upfront commitment by the Coalition government to inject an extra $30 billion into Australia’s defence budget by 2025 goes a long way toward pre-empting the most vital criticism of previous white papers – they lacked credibility because ends were divorced from means. By joining the capability dots to dollar signs, and ramping up defence spending, DWP 2016 should be recognized as a serious effort to prioritize defence funding beyond Australia’s short election cycle. This is no small political commitment by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government as it goes into an election this year and faces an uncertain economic outlook (Read More).
NLD’s Ethnic Nominees Lauded as Step Toward National Reconciliation
San Yamin Aung
The Irrawaddy, March 10, 2016
The National League for Democracy’s (NLD) nominations for the presidency have been commended for promoting national reconciliation. On Thursday morning, ethnic Burman-Mon Htin Kyaw and ethnic Chin Henry Van Thio were revealed as the NLD’s nominees for the presidency. The two men will be put to a vote in the Union Parliament, along with a nominee from the military, who has not yet been named. The winner will become Burma’s president and the other two will be the vice presidents.
“I am happy and grateful that they nominated an ethnic Chin for the presidency,” said Paw Lian Lwin, former Upper House lawmaker from the Chin National Democratic Party (CNDP). “We have been forgotten for more than five decades and have become the most underdeveloped area,” he added, referring to Chin State, Burma’s most impoverished. Paw Lian Lwin said the NLD’s selections would bring greater ethnic unity under the new government, which assumes power in April (Read More).
Asean Autonomy Key as China’s Reach Grows
Goh Sui Noi,
Strait Times, February 26, 2016
Two developments in the past two weeks have had the South-east Asian region and the United States all worked up about China and its intentions in the South China Sea. First off, last week, US broadcaster Fox News released satellite images of two batteries of a surface-to-air missile system on Woody Island in the Chinese-controlled Paracel chain, which is also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan….Then on Monday, the American think-tank Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) published a report saying that China was possibly installing high-frequency radar on Cuarteron Reef in the Spratlys, another disputed chain of islands, to the south-east of the Paracels….Alarmist as these claims sound, they point to China’s incremental reach in the region militarily, dubbed salami-slicing by some, that includes the artificial island-building on several reefs in the Spratlys that began in earnest in December 2013 and the likely installation of defence equipment on these islands in the months and years to come (More).
Raja Mandala: Akhand Bharat and Other Stories
January 5, 2016, The Hindu
Some ideas come with heavy political baggage. Others come with unacceptable authorship. “Akhand Bharat” seems doubly handicapped. It’s associated with the RSS and generates fears of Hindutva hegemony across the subcontinent. But the essence of the idea — the unity of the subcontinent — is likely to endure. The problem is with different conceptions of that unity…Three decades after the formation of the Saarc, there is much support for the idea of restoring the “historical unity of our common living space” as the journal Himal Southasian, founded in Kathmandu by Kanak Mani Dixit, affirms. Dixit and other regionalists lament the fact that the subcontinent is the least integrated region of the world. They are not, of course, seeking to undo the state system in the subcontinent but to promote greater cooperation through regional, sub-regional and transregional mechanisms. (Read More)
Suu Kyi’s Silence and Myanmar’s Future
Steven M. Keithley
January 4, 2016, The Strait Times
When Ms Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) defeated the Tatmadaw-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party by a landslide, it seemed as if the villages, which broke the Japanese, expelled the British and kept a globally-unpopular regime in power for two decades, finally shifted their allegiance. With such overwhelming support, it seemed obvious that Ms Suu Kyi’s time to act with reformist vigour had finally come…..Yet, the people of Myanmar have heard little since. When considered alongside the few indications which have been given of the future, it appears likely that, when Parliament is seated later this year, it will not be led by the revolutionary denied power in 1990, but by a pragmatic conservative Myanmar does not need in 2016. (Read More)
How China Sees Russia
January/February 2016, Foreign Affairs
At a time when Russian relations with the United States and western European countries are growing cold, the relatively warm ties between China and Russia have attracted renewed interest. Scholars and journalists in the West find themselves debating the nature of the Chinese-Russian partnership and wondering whether it will evolve into an alliance. The Chinese-Russian relationship is a stable strategic partnership and by no means a marriage of convenience: it is complex, sturdy, and deeply rooted. Changes in international relations since the end of the Cold War have only brought the two countries closer together. Some Western analysts and officials have speculated (and perhaps even hoped) that the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, in which Russia has become heavily involved, would lead to tensions between Beijing and Moscow—or even a rupture. But that has not happened. (Read More)
Rocket Force to Protect National Interests
January 05, 2016, China Daily
At an official ceremony of the People’s Liberation Army on Dec 31, top leader Xi Jinping, conferred military flags on the general command of the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force. The Second Artillery Force, founded in 1966 as China’s core strategic deterrent force, has been officially renamed and promoted as one of the four army units of the PLA. “It was mainly for secrecy reasons that China named its first missile force Second Artillery Force in 1966,” says Shao Yongling, a professor at the PLA Rocket Force Commanding Academy, which was known as the SAF Commanding Academy. “But the SAF was not very different from other artillery forces of the time. Its shooting range was hundreds of kilometers, and it served as a supporting force of the army .” Moreover, most of the first SAF officers and soldiers were later shifted out of the artillery force. (Read More)
Modi Meets World
December 31, 2015, Times of India
Until Narendra Modi played Santa Claus with Nawaz Sharif, his 2015 would have been another hectic peripatetic year signing off with an inspiring speech to the new Afghan parliament. Modi’s ‘inbox’ for 2016 is now filling up rapidly, defying all good intentions to stay home next year.But first, his ‘outbox’. In a year when Modi zipped around the world but attracted some flak at home for being a ‘tourist’, a few things in his foreign policy went much beyond the measurement of investment billions his people throw around….India showed unusual dexterity in utilising a narrow diplomatic window to engage Gulf Arab states. Modi, during his August visit to the UAE, positioned India as an attractive alternative for these sheikhdoms to embrace a new paradigm, weaning them away from the Islamist sauce sold by Pakistan. If places like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Doha and Muscat want to become more like Singapore they need to cast off some old thinking. India is a promising harbour. (Read More)
Philippines to join China’s AIIB
December 30, 2015, Bangkok Post
The Philippines is set to join the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, describing it as a “promising institution” that could help accelerate the country’s economic growth… for the Philippines, the AIIB “will augment and complement existing multilateral institutions in accelerating economic growth,” Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said in a statement. (Read More)
Japan and the ‘Maritime Pivot’ to Southeast Asia
Koh Swee Lean Collin
December 14, 2015, The Diplomat
“Japan should not be the weak link in the regional and global security framework where the U.S. plays a leading role… we must be a net contributor to the provision of the world’s welfare and security.” So proclaimed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a speech back in September 2013, adding that “Japan will contribute to the peace and stability of the region and the world even more proactively than before.”… Japan has gone deeper westwards, into the Indian Ocean region, and even further afield into the Caribbean for example. But nowhere else have Japan’s maritime security capacity-building assistance programs been as extensive as they are in Southeast Asia. Some of the beneficiaries in the region are the Philippines and Vietnam which, like Japan in the East China Sea, have their fair share of problems with Beijing in the South China Sea. (Read More)
Presidents of China and Taiwan Shake Hands in First Ever Meeting
The New York Times, November 07, 2015
President Xi Jinping of China shook hands with Ma Ying-jeou, the president of Taiwan, in the first ever meeting of the neighbors and longtime rivals, an act both sides described as a breakthrough gesture meant to promote peace and mutual prosperity…It was the first meeting of the leader of the Republic of China, more commonly called Taiwan, and the leader of the People’s Republic of China. The two governments have been rivals since 1949, when Chiang Kai-shek, the leader of the Chinese Nationalists, fled to Taiwan after losing a civil war to Mao’s Communists, who established the People’s Republic of China that year. Those two leaders last met in 1945. (Read More)
Why South Korea Will Stay Out of the South China Sea
Stratfor, November 06, 2015
Several countries have been courting an increasingly active Japan to support them in asserting their maritime rights in the South China Sea against China’s expanding presence. But South Korea may be slow to follow Japan’s example. Though the waters off the southeast Chinese coast are a vital trade route for South Korea, as they are for other surrounding countries, committing military force there would risk hurting the country’s close trade relationship with China. That is a risk South Korea may not be ready to take, especially since it would mean throwing its lot in with its historical colonizer, Japan. (Read More)
Joint Declaration Signing at Asean Defence Meeting Scrapped
Koi Kye Le,
New Straits Times Online, November 04, 2015
The planned joint declaration signing between defence chiefs at the Asean Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) has been scrapped. Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said a consensus could not be reached among the participating nations, but did not elaborate further. He said Asean had decided not come out with the joint declaration, adding that there were other avenues to address issues of contention. (Read More)
Raja-Mandala: Why Delhi Must Not be at Sea
C. Raja Mohan
The Indian Express, November 3, 2015
Under a so-called nine-dash line, China claims almost the whole of the South China Sea, dismissing claims to parts of it from Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. China’s recent aggressive land reclamation and construction projects on several reefs have spread alarm among its Southeast Asian neighbours….The Philippines and others in the region like Vietnam, which are at the receiving end of Beijing’s assertiveness in the South China Sea, hope that the legal discourse in The Hague might help put Beijing a little bit on the defensive….The region has welcomed Delhi’s expanding interest in South China Sea issues in recent years. The UPA government had begun to raise its voice in favour of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, as well as urging Beijing to resolve its territorial disputes peacefully. (Read More)
The Lady’s Challengers
Foreign Affairs, November 6, 2015
On a Saturday in late October, a convoy of taxis snaked its way through a small village 12 miles south of Yangon. In one of the jeeps, Myanmar’s opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, waved to the crowds that lined the roadsides. Onlookers responded with cheers. Once onstage, Suu Kyi articulated her vision for the country, one that looked beyond the nationwide elections on November 8. She wanted to create more jobs, improve the infrastructure, and empower citizens. It’s a vision that all parties here espouse, but only Suu Kyi, known as “the Lady,” has anything close to a monopoly on the people’s trust. This is reflected in the feverish excitement that follows her wherever she goes. (Read More)
Tinkerer in chief: One Year of Economic Leadership under Joko Widodo
November 05, 2015
High-priced staple goods and a sputtering economy have dampened voters’ approval of the president – down from over 70% last year to just above 50% in October 2015. Once a down-to-earth, social-media-friendly candidate who enraptured voters and commentators, Widodo has often seemed flat-footed and overwhelmed by politics. Discarding the more cosmopolitan leanings of predecessor SBY, Widodo has emphasised everyday ‘kitchen table’ issues. He has expanded health and education access, especially for his core constituency of rural, poor voters, while reacting to economic headwinds facing Indonesia. (Read More)
Tensions Rising in South China Sea
The Japan Times, November1, 2015
A U.S. Navy warship sailed inside the 12-nautical-mile limit of an artificial island built by China in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea last week to demonstrate the right of freedom of navigation in international waters. The United States is expected to regularly conduct this type of naval operation in the area. China strongly reacted by saying that the U.S. warship “illegally” entered waters near “islands and reefs of China’s Nansha (Spratly) Islands” and called the maneuver “extremely irresponsible.” Two Chinese warships followed the U.S. destroyer and issued warnings. The U.S. action has heightened tensions between the two countries. Washington and Beijing should exercise self-restraint to prevent an unanticipated incident that could escalate into a military confrontation. (Read More)
What Lies in the South China Sea
The Wall Street Journal, October 13, 2015
The U.S. and China are headed for a showdown at sea. U.S. officials say that within days the U.S. military will conduct “freedom of navigation” patrols to challenge Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea’s strategic Spratly archipelago. That area lies more than 700 miles off China’s coast, between Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, but China’s government has warned that it is “seriously concerned” about U.S. action and “will absolutely not permit any country to infringe on China’s territorial waters.” (Read More)
A Resumption of Six-Party Talks on North Korea Long Overdue
The Asahi Shimbum, October 13, 2015
North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party marked its 70th anniversary on Oct. 10 with an extravagant ceremony that featured one of the largest military parades held in Pyongyang, the nation’s capital…On the other hand, Pyongyang also sent a conciliatory message to Washington immediately before the anniversary. It officially proposed to replace the armistice that ended the Korean War (1950-1953) with a peace treaty….This conciliatory gesture toward the United States, which was the first of this kind in a while, is probably more reflective of the Kim regime’s true intentions than the saber-rattling and chest pounding at the military parade. (Read More)
Operation Malabar: A Warning to China
Rediff.com, October 12, 2015
From October 12 to 19, a high-level trilateral exercise between the naval forces of India, the United States and Japan will be held in the Bay of Bengal as a part of the extended Malabar Exercises.….The exercise acquires political significance and legitimacy as it is a follow-up to the first foreign ministerial meeting at New York on September 29 between these three countries. All three nations had seven meetings by June 2015 at the joint secretary level since 2011, but decided to elevate the coordination. (Read More)
Challenging times for S’pore-Indonesia ties
The Straits Times, October 13, 2015,
Generally excellent bilateral ties during the years when President Suharto led Indonesia from 1967 to 1998 have been followed by more challenging interactions as Singapore adjusted to the rise of populist democracy in Indonesia.…..As hotly contested regional elections are set to take place in Indonesia in December, there is a risk that Singapore will be a target of criticism in provincial and district (kabupaten) electoral campaigns in Sumatra….A younger generation of Internet-savvy Indonesians are also likely to take nationalistic postures and criticism of Singapore risks going viral. (Read More)
Where’s India on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Asia Unbound, October 6, 2015
The United States and eleven other countries have concluded negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade pact that will cover 40 percent of global trade spanning Asia and the Pacific Rim, including some Latin American countries. It represents a subset of the countries in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, and one can anticipate that other APEC members may elect to join the TPP in the future……So where is India? India has not yet indicated whether it has interest in pursuing TPP membership down the line. This is because no clear consensus has formed in India on whether expanded market access will help the Indian economy grow, and whether the gains will be worth the potential costs to some still-protected Indian industries. (Read More)
Myanmar Government Seeks to Calm Fears of Election Postponement
Thomas Fuller and Wai Moe
The New York Times, October 13, 2015
A proposal to postpone elections in Myanmar caused an outcry among democratic forces on Tuesday, and the government then issued a public reassurance that the voting would take place as scheduled on Nov. 8. The fear and confusion over a possible delay reflected the democracy movement’s underlying mistrust of the military establishment, including the bureaucracy and the government of President Thein Sein. (Read More)