We've detected an outdated browser.

You may want to consider updating your browser. International Policy Digest requires a modern browser in order to view the website properly.

Click here for information on how to update your browser.

Continue Anyways
Asia-Pacific

Tag Archives | Asia-Pacific

Will Modi’s Election Destabilize Asia?

|
Reuters
Reuters

Reuters

Experts in international security view the latent India-Pakistani conflict as potentially one of the most dangerous worldwide. India and Pakistan desperately need to build a lasting peace, and must avoid further friction. Enter Modi, the newly elected prime minister of India. Modi, as president, is a potential nightmare for those hoping for a better relationship between India and Pakistan. This is mainly because of Modi’s controversial role in the 2002 massacre of Muslims in Gujarat, which happened while he was the region’s Chief Minister.

The problem is that popular opinion among Pakistan’s political elites is that India just elected a prime minister who is responsible for systemically killing Muslims. Therefore Pakistan’s leadership is likely not only to mistrust Modi, but also to grow increasingly hostile towards the Indian population as a whole. In Pakistan, growing mistrust equals growing military influence, since the Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) has historically always been able to use crisis atmospheres to increase their power. Between the US using drones in northern Pakistan with only partial permission from the Pakistani government, India turning to Hindu nationalism, and a failure to effectively eliminate domestic Taliban groups from ruling parts of Pakistan’s periphery, the ISI is bound to take charge sooner or later.

Continue Reading →

Is the TPPA an Extension of U.S. Foreign Policy?

|
Ryan Lim/Malacañang Photo Bureau
Ryan Lim/Malacañang Photo Bureau

Ryan Lim/Malacañang Photo Bureau

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to attend an insightful talk by Professor Richard Tanter, a leading analyst on East Asia. In talking about the recent American “pivot” to East Asia and its imminent desire to consolidate an East Asian alliance, Tanter was emphasizing US’s ailing economy and its limited capacity for outreach as a challenge for US foreign policy.

Faced with severe and ongoing budget limitations, Tanter’s analysis struck an accurate chord in underscoring a qualitative change in US foreign policy abroad. Indeed, moving away from a neorealist practice of conducting international affairs, post-crisis economic hurdles are reflective of the current US government’s Liberalist turn. To put it into non-IR terminology: the US is increasingly shifting its focus to building and strengthening economic alliances, rather than military ones.

Continue Reading →

Cold War Heats Up in Asia

|
offshoreenergytoday.com
offshoreenergytoday.com

offshoreenergytoday.com

The People’s Republic of China decided to defy the “pivot to Asia” by parking its HYSY 981 drilling platform—protected by a flotilla of various vessels perhaps not including PLAN ships- in waters that Vietnam considers part of its EEZ. Vietnam has been displeased, to put it mildly. It has reached out to the Philippines, indicating that it may support Manila’s legal challenge to the nine-dash-line or perhaps institute a legal case of its own.

A Vietnamese deputy prime minister is also visiting Washington DC at US Secretary of State John Kerry’s invitation, apparently to provide optics for an expected US congressional resolution condemning PRC activities in the South China Sea. The visit also raises the specter (for the PRC) of a US return to Cam Ranh Bay, the massive US-built naval base on the Vietnamese coast.

Continue Reading →

Only Tourism can Save Thailand

|
Associated Press
Associated Press

Associated Press

In the tortured modern political history of Thailand military coups have become commonplace, the result of the growing fissure between the political and economic power of the Bangkok elite versus the rural poor. Thailand has endured 12 military coups and 7 attempted coups since the absolute monarchy ended in 1932 and the army’s right to intervene in political affairs has even been enshrined in law, making Thailand one of the world’s most coup-prone countries.

Coups have become such a permanent component of the political landscape that they are actually good for business. Based on the country’s economic performance over the past 40 years, coups have generally had a net positive benefit on the country’s economic performance. In the years following the 1976/1977 coups, GDP nearly doubled. GDP more than doubled following the attempted coup of 1985 and rose slightly following the coup of 1991. It was only in the years following the 2006 coup, after the current battle lines had been clearly drawn by Thaksin Shinawatra, that GDP took a precipitous decline.

Continue Reading →

Beijing’s Foreign Policy Stumbles Again in Vietnam

|
Luong Thai Linh/EPA
Luong Thai Linh/EPA

Luong Thai Linh/EPA

Beijing’s clumsy efforts at foreign policy seem to have backfired again, as its deployment of a deep sea oil drilling rig in disputed waters off Vietnam triggered widespread protests and rioting in Vietnam this past week. In possibly the worst breakdown in ties between the two Communist neighbors since a brief border war in 1979, worker protests broke out in 22 of the country’s 63 provinces, targeting Chinese-owned factories and Chinese nationals. Over 400 factories were damaged, including some 200 Taiwanese, 55 South Korean, and 10 Japanese factories. Xinhua, the Chinese state news agency, reported the death of two Chinese nationals and over 100 injured as a result of the rioting. Chinese expatriates filled the airports waiting for flights out of the country, while some 600 Chinese nationals crossed into Cambodia over the land border. Vietnamese authorities have arrested over 1000 people involved in the rioting and issued text messages nationwide to quell the unrest.

Anger at China had been building after the Chinese floated a $1 billion deep sea drilling rig to disputed waters close to the Paracel Islands on May 1. The Paracels are known as the Xisha to the Chinese and the Hoang Sa to the Vietnamese. While Vietnam lays claim to the more than 30 islets, sandbanks and reefs as part of its 200-mile exclusive economic zone, the islands are currently controlled by China’s Hainan Province, which in July 2012 established Sansha City to administer the three townships under its jurisdiction. China took control of the islands in 1974 in a naval skirmish between China and Vietnam following the withdrawal of American troops.

Continue Reading →

Why MH370 will not Fundamentally Change China-Malaysia Relations

and |
Associated Press
Associated Press

Associated Press

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has prompted Chinese citizens to pressure their government to react harshly to Malaysia’s perceived incompetence. Purtrajaya’s lack of transparency on the subject, and Beijing’s sensitivity to domestic populism, have fueled the angry rhetoric Chinese officials have directed toward their Malaysian counterparts. Yet, in spite of the bilateral tension created by MH370, China is likely to remain cautious about taking actions that could jeopardize its partnership with Malaysia, given the country’s importance in the region’s geopolitical landscape and its warming relations with Washington.

China has a history of encouraging its citizens to rise up against foreign powers when Chinese people or property have been done wrong. The best recent example of this was the mistaken bombing by the U.S. of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in 1999. A firestorm of protest followed across China, culminating in daily attacks on the U.S. embassy in Beijing by Chinese citizens armed with rocks. The Chinese government tacitly encouraged this response – a useful way for Chinese citizens to blow off some steam, while sending a strong message to America.

Continue Reading →

From Fixation to Fixture: The Australian Border Force

|
Scott Fisher/AAP

“The means of defence against foreign danger have been always the instruments of tyranny at home.” – James Madison, Constitutional Convention, Jun 29, 1787

Scott Fisher/AAP

Scott Fisher/AAP

The greatest dangers of totalitarianism – the variant that produced the European regimes of the 1920s and 1930s – is the sense of a permanent emergency that underpins its existence. The raison d’être of such states lies in the need to maintain the fear, precipitating dangers through the social body, and fostering a permanent sense of vigilance against looming threats. Australia’s Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has certainly borrowed from that historical legacy, attempting to make the angst and anxiety of border control a fixture of his country’s policy. Emergency, in other words, is being made permanent.

Super security agencies are always to be looked at with suspicion. The creation, after the attacks of September 11 2001, of an Office of Homeland Security in the US was heavily accented in favour of security before liberties. In Australia, the newly elected Abbott government would rush to transform the immigration department into one of immigration and border security. As is ever the case, Canberra is permanently jealous of its American cousins, and attempts, at every given moment, to emulate Washington’s overbearing example. The better examples of constitutional valour are overlooked in favour of the heavy-handed solutions.

Continue Reading →

Vietnam Protesters Attack China over Sea Dispute

|
Vietnamese protesters

Hundreds of people across Vietnam have protested against China’s role in a sea dispute - the largest rallies of their kind recently in the communist country. In the capital, Hanoi, demonstrators sang patriotic songs and held up placards opposite the Chinese embassy. Tensions have been running high after Vietnamese ships clashed with Chinese vessels guarding an oilrig in a contested area of the South China Sea. The protests appear to have the Vietnamese government’s approval.

The country’s communist authorities have broken up previous anti-China demonstrations because of fears that they may be hijacked by pro-democracy activists, says the BBC’s Asia Pacific editor, Charles Scanlon. Nevertheless, he says, Hanoi has also used the demonstrations to communicate its anger over what it sees as Beijing’s aggressive infringement of Vietnamese sovereignty.

The protesters opposite the Chinese embassy on Sunday included war veterans and students. “This is the largest anti-Chinese demonstration I have ever seen in Hanoi,” a war veteran named Dang Quang Thang told the AFP news agency. “Our patience has limits. We are here to express the will of the Vietnamese people to defend our territory at all costs. We are ready to die to protect our nation,” he is quoted as saying. Large anti-China protests were also seen in other Vietnamese cities.

Earlier this month, ships from the two countries collided near a Chinese oil drilling platform in the South China Sea. China has warned Vietnam to withdraw its ships from waters, off the disputed Paracel Islands, that it claims as its own. But Vietnam - which also claims that stretch of sea - accused China of having sent 80 vessels, including navy ships, to support an oil drilling operation. It released video footage to back its claim that Chinese ships had rammed Vietnamese vessels. The US has accused China of provocation, and warned that the dispute could destabilize the region.

The issue was also discussed by foreign ministers at the 10-member ASEAN summit of Southeast Asian Nations in Myanmar (also known as Burma).

Japan-China Standoff in the East China Sea: Why Diplomacy needs to Work

|
Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 22, 2014.
Photo by Photo Moritz Hager

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s statement at Davos that the relationship between Japan and China is the same as that between Great Britain and Germany prior to the First World War has drawn a sharp response from world leaders.

Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 22, 2014. Photo by Moritz Hager

Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, January 22, 2014. Photo by Moritz Hager

The political turmoil in the East China Sea between Japan and China has reached unprecedented heights to a level where leaders of both countries are not talking to each other. The situation is quite alarming considering the huge economic repercussions a conflict between the two countries could have on the world economy. The Japanese prime minister’s recent visit to the Yasukuni Shrine last year coupled with aggressive nationalist policies have worsened the situation. The recent air defense identification zone (ADIZ) declared by China over the disputed Senkaku/Daioyu Islands has caused the situation to deteriorate further as Japan considers these islands as part of Japan. Both the countries are playing a game of cat and mouse and testing each other’s capabilities and limits.

Japan fears China’s rise and its rapid military modernization in the region as a threat to its very existence. What Japan fears is that China might gain control of both the East China and South China Seas thereby holding Japan ransom and crippling its already struggling economy. Japan’s recent National Security Strategy clearly identifies China as the troublemaker in the region. In response to China’s military buildup, Japan has increased its defense budget to counter a perceived Chinese threat. The bulk of the defense budget will be spent on acquiring maritime surveillance units. Japan will spend around $250 billion USD over the next 5 years to keep Chinese forces in check. Concerns about China’s opaque decision-making process and its intentions in the region are troubling for Japan. China’s use of force and coercion to enforce its claims with blatant disregard for international law and order has propelled the Japanese government to have a look at its peace constitution, which enforces a ban on offensive military capabilities.

Continue Reading →

Beijing Needs a Softer Approach to Fighting Terrorism

|
A tourist holds up a Chinese flag as he poses for photos near a Chinese paramilitary policeman in Tiananmen Square. Ng Han Guan/AP Photo

Terrorists have long chosen as targets those places where hordes of people gather, in an apparent effort to maximize the destruction and sow fear in the general populace. Typical targets include popular restaurants, hotels, embassies, or public transport stations.

A tourist holds up a Chinese flag as he poses for photos near a Chinese paramilitary policeman in Tiananmen Square. Ng Han Guan/AP Photo

A tourist holds up a Chinese flag as he poses for photos near a Chinese paramilitary policeman in Tiananmen Square. Ng Han Guan/AP Photo

China’s terrorists have previously chosen a number of different targets, but seem intent this year to focus on attacking train stations. On Tuesday, in the third such incident in three months, six people were stabbed at a train station in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province in southern China. Police said they shot and injured one male assailant, though eyewitnesses report there were at least two knife-wielding attackers wearing white shirts, white pants and the small white skullcaps commonly worn by Uighurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang and other parts of China.

The attack in Guangzhou comes less than a week after two religious extremists carried out a similar attack at the Urumqi train station in far-western Xinjiang region, in an apparent suicide bombing that also killed one other person and wounded 79. The first such attack on a train station occurred in the southwestern city of Kunming in March, when eight assailants, armed with foot-long sabers and believed to be ethnic Uighurs, set upon men and women in the Kunming Railway Station. Twenty-nine people were killed in that attack and another 143 injured. The attacks on train stations may represent a new, coordinated approach, given prior scattered incidents involving attacks on policemen in Xinjiang, an alleged plane hijacking, and the crashing of a jeep into pedestrians at Beijing’s Tiananmen Gate in November.

Continue Reading →

Thailand’s Constitutional Court Ousts PM Yingluck Shinawatra

|
Photo by Moritz Hager

A Thai court has ruled that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra must step down over abuse of power charges.

Photo by Moritz Hager

Photo by Moritz Hager

The Constitutional Court ruled that Ms. Yingluck acted illegally when she transferred her national security head. The binding decision also orders nine cabinet ministers involved in the transfer to step down. The ruling follows months of political deadlock. Anti-government protesters have been trying to oust Ms. Yingluck since November 2013. The move is likely to trigger protests by supporters of the government, which remains very popular in rural areas.

Ms. Yingluck had been accused of improperly transferring Thawil Pliensri, her national security chief appointed by the opposition-led administration, in 2011. Appearing in court on Tuesday, she had rejected the suggestion that her party had benefited from the move. But the court ruled against her, saying a relative had gained from the move. “The prime minister’s status has ended, Yingluck can no longer stay in her position acting as caretaker prime minister,” a judge said in a statement.

Continue Reading →

Budget Uncertainty puts America’s National Security Interests at Risk

|
A U.S. Marine uses an interpreter during a patrol in Sahtut, Afghanistan

Last week the House Committee on Armed Services began the legislative process for crafting the fiscal year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, with several subcommittee meetings scheduled before the full committee markup on May 7.

A U.S. Marine uses an interpreter during a patrol in Sahtut, Afghanistan

A U.S. Marine uses an interpreter during a patrol in Sahtut, Afghanistan

Congressional budget battles, which, lately, seem to be a never-ending exercise in futility, will intensify. Budget discussions and markup efforts will reflect a political landscape defined by the upcoming mid-term elections in November and resultant political campaign posturing. This reality adds fodder to the uncertainty of the budget process outlook, and suggests that congressional efforts may culminate in the eventual passage of a continuing resolution, as has become the politically convenient solution in recent years. While Congress continues to hem and haw, defense contractors appear to be navigating uncertain waters and mitigating uncertain budgetary futures by reining in expenditures, reducing employee overheard and implementing cost reduction initiatives to keep fickle investors at bay. Recent quarterly earnings appear to substantiate the industry-wide fears and consequent cutbacks.

Boeing (NYSE:BA), a multinational, American-based aerospace company, had a 6 percent decline in sales from $8.1 to $7.6 billion in its Defense, Space & Security business unit. Overall, the company did see an increase of 8 percent in revenue during the first quarter, but that gain comes as a result of a nearly 20 percent uptick in its commercial aviation division. General Dynamics (NYSE: GD), a major aerospace and defense company, sustained a 15.2 percent drop in revenues for its combat systems business unit over this quarter last year. Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC), a leading global security company, also took a hit, with sales down 4.2 percent from $6.1 billion to $5.85 billion, over last year. And Raytheon (NYSE: RTN), a technology company specializing in defense and homeland security solutions, sustained a 6 percent drop in sales compared to this quarter in 2013.

Continue Reading →

Letting the Rapist in the House: The U.S.-RP Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement

|
President Barack Obama during a joint presser with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III

“We Do Not Want Filipinos, We Want the Philippines.” – San Francisco Argonaut, 1902

President Barack Obama during a joint presser with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III

President Barack Obama during a joint presser with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III

The cloakroom of hegemony can be a heavily stocked one. There are variations in style, dress and material – but at the end of the day, the accent is unmistakable. Imperial wear remains just that, an ominous warning to those who taste it, and those who would love it. In the context of Washington’s move into the Philippines under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), cloaked hegemony is again giving its ugly strut in the country.

Activists who campaigned for years to remove the US military presence from the country now face a reversal of those gains under President Benigno Aquino. That it should be the son turning back the legacy of the mother, Corazón Aquino, would seem to make it a suitable topic for tragic drama. In a more concrete sense, the agreement would tend to constitute a glaring breach of the Philippines constitution of 1987, which disallows the presence of foreign military bases and troops. In 1992, US military bases were dismantled, less to do with Washington’s embrace of peaceful demobilisation than the Philippine Senate’s resolution of 1991 to end Washington’s leases on the bases.

Continue Reading →

Plausible Alternative Explanations for the Disappearance of MH370

|
Rob Griffith
Rob Griffith

Rob Griffith

What Occam’s razor tells me is quite the opposite of what Malaysian authorities recently said, “…the possibility of a specific country hiding the plane when more than 20 nations are searching for it, seems absurd.” As you read this, keep in mind that Malaysian pirates are active in the hijacking of ships passing through the Malacca strait. Many officials in Malaysia are believed to benefit financially from it, and this has contributed to the perception that Malaysia faces endemic corruption. The point of this is that it means that there are clandestine networks established in Malaysia that are robust. It means people grow up in that milieu and adopting such methods is second nature.

Here’s what I think happened. A small group of Islamists came up with the idea of hijacking an airplane full of Chinese in order to use them as leverage to get concessions from China in Xinjiang. These men were independent volunteers; intelligent amateurs who hooked up with similar men in Pakistan and possibly Bangladesh. The two pilots were part of the mission, just doing their bit for their Muslim brothers. They flew the plane on a course rather like either of those shown. The first part of the flight we know until almost the divergence point.

Continue Reading →

Dragon v. Godzilla: How Far will the U.S. go to Reassure Japan?

|
President Barack Obama speaking in Japan. Junko Kimura-Matsumoto/Bloomberg

US President Barack Obama’s visit to Japan this week came at an opportune time, given the growing friction between Asia’s two largest military powers over disputed territories.

President Barack Obama speaking in Japan. Junko Kimura-Matsumoto/Bloomberg

President Barack Obama speaking in Japan. Junko Kimura-Matsumoto/Bloomberg

Just last week, Japan began its first military expansion in more than 40 years by breaking ground on a radar station on Yonaguri, a tropical island off Taiwan. Japan intends to send 100-150 soldiers to man its new military lookout station on Yonaguni, which is home to 1,500 people and just 150 km (93 miles) from the disputed Japanese-held Senkaku islands claimed by both China and Taiwan. Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera, who attended a ceremony on Yonaguni island to mark the start of construction, suggested the military presence could be enlarged to other islands in the seas southwest of Japan’s main islands. Perhaps in retaliation, the Shanghai Maritime Court seized a Japanese vessel for failing to respond to a compensation order stemming from a wartime contractual dispute. The action was taken just prior to Obama’s visit and appears to be the first time that an asset of a Japanese company has been confiscated in a lawsuit concerning wartime compensation.

Faced with the dilemma of choosing sides during his visit to Tokyo, President Obama reiterated Washington’s backing of the US-Japan security treaty, stating “Article five covers all territories under Japan’s administration including (the) Senkaku islands,” referring to the archipelago which Beijing calls the Diaoyus and the Taiwanese refer to as the Tiaoyutai. Clearly not wishing to be drawn into a military conflict, Obama called for a peaceful resolution to the territorial dispute over the islands, adding “We do not believe that they should be subject to change unilaterally, and what is a consistent part of the alliance is that the treaty covers all territories administered by Japan.”

Continue Reading →