South China Sea – Policy Forum https://www.policyforum.net The APPS Policy Forum a public policy website devoted to Asia and the Pacific. Fri, 14 Jun 2019 05:14:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.10 https://www.policyforum.net/wp-content/uploads/cache/2017/01/favicon/2924535576.png South China Sea – Policy Forum https://www.policyforum.net 32 32 An ideal Indo-Pacific, re-interpreting history, and a distinct lack of trust https://www.policyforum.net/an-ideal-indo-pacific-re-interpreting-history-and-a-distinct-lack-of-trust/ https://www.policyforum.net/an-ideal-indo-pacific-re-interpreting-history-and-a-distinct-lack-of-trust/#respond Thu, 06 Jun 2019 01:14:26 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=33532 Amidst mounting tensions between China and the US, this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue saw several countries reveal their own hopes and dreams for the Indo-Pacific, as well as reinforcing the lack of trust existing in the region, Huong Le Thu writes. The Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) is a key regional communication platform for actors in the Indo-Pacific. […]

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Amidst mounting tensions between China and the US, this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue saw several countries reveal their own hopes and dreams for the Indo-Pacific, as well as reinforcing the lack of trust existing in the region, Huong Le Thu writes.

The Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) is a key regional communication platform for actors in the Indo-Pacific. This year’s gathering promised a chance for global powers to address the mounting questions and concerns surrounding their strategies and intentions.

Singapore, also the SLD’s host country, voiced the region’s general concerns around escalated US-China tensions. Representing those involuntarily entangled in this great power competition, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pointed out that the situation is hampering growth in smaller states and could potentially lead to a disastrous clash in the region.

Speaking against confrontation and for cooperation, Lee reiterated the importance of multilateralism expressed through strategies ranging from ASEAN-style forums, to trade-negotiated regimes like the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

Moreover, taking neutrality as the guiding principle of its foreign policy, Singapore has always welcomed new initiatives like the Belt and Road and the Free and Open Indo-Pacific on the condition that they encourage cooperation and inclusivity as well as being ASEAN-centred.

More on this: Many belts, many roads in SLD 2018

This is to prevent Southeast Asian countries from suffering the most amidst great power rivalries. The Singaporean prime minister urged countries in the region to collectively ensure that such a conflict – one with the potential of lasting for generations – be avoided.

With such a scene having been set, there was even more anticipation around how the great powers would address these concerns.

The US – represented by acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan – further elaborated on the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy. A year after his predecessor, Jim Mattis, made a speech espousing Washington’s view of a rules-based order, the strategy remains poorly understood in the region.

Instead of clarifying and laying out the details, however, Shanahan mainly focused on the country’s larger ‘wants’. These included:

  • We want the Indo-Pacific to remain free and open.”
  • “The United States does not want any country in this region to have to choose or forgo positive economic relations with any partner.”
  • “We want a different future – a more promising future, one where small nations need not fear larger neighbors.”

The US presented a picture of an Indo-Pacific in which all countries benefited from the regional partnership in one way or another. Despite attempts at ensuring his audience that the US had a strong vision and plan, Shanahan fell short in convincing them that it knew how to reach those goals.

Even the Indo-Pacific Strategy Report, released by the US Department of Defence during the SLD, didn’t seem to help Shanahan clarify this. The US representative not only avoided making any pledges, but he also avoided using names whenever possible while referring to “a country [that] makes a pledge
and does not follow it”. Obviously, one was only reminded of China and its promise to refrain from militarising the South China Sea.

As far as messaging was concerned, China’s representatives were most effective in their delivery – both to regional and domestic audiences. It was the first time since 2011 that a high-ranking Chinese delegate such as General Wei Fenghe – China’s State Councillor and Minister of National Defence – had attended the SLD.

More on this: The Indo-Pacific is no Shangri-La

Whether anyone agrees with China or not is another matter, but their messages were loud and clear. To begin, the general adamantly maintained that Taiwan would never officially become independent from China.

He also underlined the positive developments in the South China Sea, and insisted that negotiations around its Code of Conduct were moving forward. According to Wei, the country was not militarising the South China Sea either – it has only been defending itself.

Wei also emphasised that China was well on the path of peaceful development. He suggested that in the last 70 years since the People’s Republic of China had been founded, the country has neither ever started a military conflict nor taken land from other countries.

This, however, is something that many of its neighbours – key actors in the Indo-Pacific whose political trajectory has been in many ways determined by China’s aggression – could never agree with.

In what was a very unapologetically upfront speech, Wei offered his audience no comfort; rather, he reminded them of China’s unwavering confidence and determination.

He also made it clear that China’s lack of aggression wasn’t to be considered a willingness to yield in saying “‘we will not attack unless we are attacked, but we will surely counterattack if attacked,” and that “the PLA vows not to yield a single inch of the country’s sacred land […]”

More on this: No zero-sum games in the Indo-Pacific

Given the high geopolitical tensions, Australia, perhaps, felt compelled to talk about the role of norms and rules in the Indo-Pacific.

The newly appointed Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds reaffirmed this in her speech in saying “we know who we are, you know who we are”. In times of uncertainty full of changes in the roles of many powers and even the world order, Australia’s policies continue to be dictated by the norms and values that it embraces.

Understanding the complexities of the region, the country expressed its desire to build meaningful and reliable relationships with its regional partners. Unfortunately, however, Australia, too, missed the opportunity to clarify its strategy on how it would achieve an open, inclusive, and sovereignty-respecting Indo-Pacific.

If there was any consensus at this year’s SLD, it’s that there’s a lack of trust in the Indo-Pacific. Whether actors be big or small, or be from within or outside the region, current sentiments are not overly positive.

This is not something that can be fixed through regional dialogue alone – not even the SLD. After all, trust is not built through words, but rather, through the actions that follow. Given the unyielding attitudes of the US and China, a deficiency in trust has become a defining characteristic of the Indo-Pacific reality.

This piece is published in partnership with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s The Strategist website.

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National Security Podcast: The Quad pod https://www.policyforum.net/national-security-podcast-the-quad-pod/ https://www.policyforum.net/national-security-podcast-the-quad-pod/#respond Thu, 30 May 2019 04:56:00 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=33387 On this National Security Podcast we take a look at the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, as well as at the nature of the relationships between the countries involved. After a rocky start, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue is seeing somewhat of a renaissance. What is driving the renewed interest from the US, Japan, Australia, and India? What […]

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On this National Security Podcast we take a look at the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, as well as at the nature of the relationships between the countries involved.

After a rocky start, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue is seeing somewhat of a renaissance. What is driving the renewed interest from the US, Japan, Australia, and India? What are these countries looking to achieve out of the dialogue? Is the Quad going to emerge as a method of containing China, or is this minilateral more mythical than meaningful? Listen here: https://bit.ly/2MeM5aN

In this episode of the National Security Podcast, four experts representing the thinking from each of the Quad nations put forward their positions on what the Quad is, what it is not, what each nation sees in the grouping, and where the divergences of interests may arise.

Zack Cooper is a Research Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where he studies US defence strategy in Asia. Dr Cooper is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Georgetown University and an associate with Armitage International. He previously served on staff at the Pentagon and White House, as well as the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

Kyoko Hatakeyama is Associate Professor at Kansai Gaidai University in Japan, teaching international relations and foreign policy. Prior to this Professor Hatakeyama served as a Research Analyst responsible for security situations in Asia and Europe at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

Ian Hall is a Professor in the School of Government and International Relations at Griffith University and the Deputy Director (Research) of the Griffith Asia Institute. He is also the co-editor (with Sara E Davies) of the Australian Journal of International Affairs and an Academic Fellow of the Australia India Institute. His book on Modi and the Reinvention of Indian Foreign Policy (Bristol University Press, 2019) will be published later this year.

Rory Medcalf is the head of the National Security College at The Australian National University. His professional background involves more than two decades of experience across diplomacy, intelligence analysis, think tanks and journalism.

We’d love to hear your feedback for this podcast series! Send in your questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes to podcast@policyforum.net. You can also Tweet us @NSC_ANU or find us on Facebook. The National Security Podcast and Policy Forum Pod are available on SpotifyiTunesStitcher, and wherever you get your podcasts. 

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National Security trend lines: 2019 https://www.policyforum.net/national-security-trend-lines-2019/ Wed, 13 Feb 2019 23:06:54 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=30596 In this special post, experts from the ANU National Security College give us their thoughts on the national security issues set to shape this year.  Over the last few years, national security policy has been substantially shaped by issues that have taken most people by surprise. Among others, the trajectories of terrorist activity, the embrace […]

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In this special post, experts from the ANU National Security College give us their thoughts on the national security issues set to shape this year. 

Over the last few years, national security policy has been substantially shaped by issues that have taken most people by surprise. Among others, the trajectories of terrorist activity, the embrace of ‘populist’ issues and candidates in many Western countries, the uneven and often toxic effects of social media, and the increase of foreign interference in elections and political processes, were all unexpected and have dramatically shaped the national security environment.

To get on the front foot, we asked some of the experts at the National Security College for their forecast of the important national security issues and trends that will matter in 2019.

The issue: The post-truth age represents an evolving challenge for national security, particularly as hostile actors seek to exacerbate domestic social fissures.

The explanation

Two years after elections in the US, UK, and across Europe, there is a plethora of documented evidence – and legal indictments – of outside interference in elections and local political debate.

Foreign actors were able to use disinformation and conspiracy theories to manipulate already existing social tensions often picked up by politicians and mainstream media, which circulated faster than facts in the lead-up to key elections.

Traditionally, experts, including scholars, act as a vital part of the body politic’s immune response. However, the relationship between experts and citizens in democracies is collapsing, with rigorous public debate replaced by ad hominem attacks, fake statistics and alternative facts.

When truth and fact are divorced and politicians exploit the confusion for political gain, good governance suffers alongside civil society and eventually democracy at large.

Relevance for Australia and national security

Information is porous, crossing international borders at the speed of Twitter. Australia is not immune from the threat. US intelligence agencies assessed that state-backed outlets such as RT, formerly Russia Today, are instrumental in spreading misinformation given the resources at their disposal and the access they are afforded in the US.

As social media channels are used by organisations such as RT as well as known post-truth entities such as Info-Wars and Qanon to expand their international presence, Australia will need to develop some tools to counter similar approaches in its own media space and democratic process in order to immunise the community against the virus of disinformation.

The issue: The undermining of trust in politics and attacks on the integrity of elections.

The explanation

A series of reports suggest that there is declining public trust in political institutions. Whether it is the conduct of politicians themselves, the political parties, or the processes of politics, people are losing faith in politics. The US, for instance, is grappling with the fallout from Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, fears of voter fraud, and anger at voter suppression.

Though Australia’s electoral processes seem a lot more robust than that of the US, we should not think that we are immune to external influence and internal disquiet. While the centrally controlled, non-electronic voting processes present challenges for direct voting hacks, the real problem arises if existing distrust is leveraged to challenge the sense of integrity in a vote’s outcomes.

The significance for Australia and national security

In 2019, Australia must be prepared to detect and defend against efforts to undermine our elections. With the New South Wales state election set for late March, and a likely federal election in May, we need to pay attention to marginal voices on social media that bubble through to mainstream political discourse.

With social media playing a central role in providing traditional media with content, such marginal and extreme views can quickly become part of the mainstream. Looking at the US 2018 mid-terms as a warning, marginal voices grow before an election suggesting that the process is tainted before the election is even run. Then, if any irregularities or upsets occur in the vote, they can point to this as part of a wider corruption of the voting process. This then both feeds off and enhances the existing distrust of politicians, major parties, and politics more generally.

The fear here is that social media allows those on the margins to undermine people’s trust in electoral processes.

The issue: Competition for status in Antarctica, pressure to gain access to more or new marine living or non-living resources, and failure to address comprehensive environmental commitments will provide the grounds for an erosion of the current norms of the Antarctic treaty system.

The explanation

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Antarctic treaty in 1959. Australia was one of the original 12 signatories. There is now a renewed geo-political interest from a range of powers in this area. Other nations are investing substantially in Antarctic science, logistics, and infrastructure.

Some states are now considering Antarctica and the Southern Ocean through a strategic lens. There are interests in fisheries and the wishes of some states to consider resource exploitation, even including harvesting icebergs and expanded tourism.

Given this year’s anniversary of the Antarctic treaty, Australia needs a renewed polar focus to ensure that the norms and values of the treaty are maintained. The biggest threat to the Antarctic treaty is ‘drift’ in its underlying norms that encourage cooperation and collaboration among all countries with an interest in the region.

The significance for Australia and national security

The Antarctic region is of immense strategic importance to Australia, not only because we claim 42 per cent of Antarctica, but also because the Antarctic treaty provides that all of the planet below 60 degrees South is a demilitarised zone.

To mark the 70th anniversary of the Antarctic treaty, we should be using our good standing to highlight its flexibility and utility. The Antarctic treaty’s right of inspection of bases down south should be more regularly exercised by Australia. This will assist in transparent and full reporting under Article VII – the requirement to disclose the use of military personnel and equipment.

The situation: China’s aggressive behaviour in multiple domains is likely to receive an increased response in 2019, forcing Xi Jinping and his Party to reconsider their approach to their international relations.

The explanation

Under the leadership of Xi Jinping, the Chinese Communist Party has become far more aggressive in how it pursues its regional and global goals since the Global Financial Crisis. China’s Belt and Road Initiative has strained relations due to predatory lending practices, expansion of naval deployments, and the mass incarceration of Muslim Uyghurs in its western region.

Over the same period, China has been warring with the US over trade, militarising the South China Sea, stiffening relations with Taiwan, taking Canadians as diplomatic hostages, interfering in Australian politics, punishing South Korea economically, and is pushing on India’s border with military force.

As its primary international lever loses its leverage, nations will be less fearful of missing out on Chinese investment and be more willing to speak out against its ruling Party and Xi Jinping in an increasingly louder international chorus.

The significance for Australia and national security

Australia’s interests in this dynamic are manyfold. We have an economic interest to protect, which sits alongside our political sovereignty and is linked to our geography. We are part of the region most impacted by China’s aggressive behaviour – the Indo-Pacific – and we sit below a pivotal actor.

Should Indonesia, which is growing more disillusioned by promises of Chinese investment, decide to condemn the Party’s human rights abuses against Muslim Uyghurs with conviction, it will likely embolden other Muslim nations to follow suit and sharpen a point, ultimately tipping a cascade of pushback against Beijing. And with 2019 seeing a presidential election in Jakarta that’s already tinted with religion, it’s a distinctly likely outcome.

It is unclear how Xi Jinping might react to a concerted outcry against China’s regional arrogance: he may dial things back or he might double efforts going for broke. Either way, and especially since Australia has been leading the resistance to Chinese political interference, policymakers in Canberra need to be prepared for a turbulent 2019.

 

The issue: Global attempts led by governments to improve cyber security will continue to be ineffective due to competing ideologies, inconsistent application of security measures, and fundamental misunderstandings regarding the nature, origin, and potential harm of cyber threats.

The explanation

The global cyber environment is fast-reaching a tipping point. 2018 saw an increase in cyber incidents and attacks, and this trend is likely to continue in 2019. These increases, alongside advances in artificial intelligence, the exponential adoption of the Internet of Things, and a global economy increasingly dependent on internet connectivity, are creating fundamental shifts in the way society operates. Governments are unable to keep pace with these shifts, and security is lagging dangerously as a result.

The significance for Australia and national security

The Australian government is not unique in identifying cyber security as a serious risk. It has allocated funding and personnel (no small feat in the current Australian Public Service environment), reorganised hierarchies, released an updated Cyber Security Strategy, and shifted the responsibility for cyber security among its ministers.

But despite these efforts, Australia has not yet managed to create a coherent arrangement of measures to protect national security in cyberspace. We’ve been lucky so far. The New Year may well be the year that that luck runs out.

 

The issue: In the face of China’s dominance of electronics manufacturing, governments will likely have to choose between the security of their communications and the benefits of Chinese trade far sooner than they might like.

The explanation

China manufactures approximately 70 per cent of the world’s smartphones and 90 per cent of the world’s computers, and even non-Sino enterprises source anywhere from 50 per cent to 75 per cent of their components from Chinese factories.

In late 2018, Bloomberg reported that Chinese operatives had secreted tiny hardware backdoors into the supply chain of servers that ultimately found their way to large US tech companies. While the veracity of the claims have been challenged, any further indication during 2019 of supply lines being infiltrated for the purposes of espionage will see governments forced into action.

The significance for Australia and national security

In the areas of its direct control, the Australian government will need to either accept the substantial costs associated with extensively vetting and monitoring the electronics and telecommunications equipment it uses, or accept a lower standard of security.

Regardless of the choice its government makes, Australia will still face huge external risks due to China’s domination of the consumer electronics market. The use of compromised devices by its various employees, contractors, and associated personnel could result in coercive actions against key individuals, and the use of compromised computers, cloud servers, and network equipment by private companies could deliver a foreign government huge amounts of data for use in foreign interference operations and undermine Australia’s national security.

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China-Russia: a pseudo-alliance in limbo https://www.policyforum.net/china-russia-a-pseudo-alliance-in-limbo/ Wed, 09 Jan 2019 00:36:42 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=29816 Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin were all smiles at the recent G20 summit, but relations between the two countries have stalled and tensions are rising, Pavel K Baev writes. High-level bonhomie was on display at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires last December, as it invariably is at meetings between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin […]

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Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin were all smiles at the recent G20 summit, but relations between the two countries have stalled and tensions are rising, Pavel K Baev writes.

High-level bonhomie was on display at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires last December, as it invariably is at meetings between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin – the irreplaceable leaders of China and Russia. Yet the exaggerated gestures of goodwill cannot quite camouflage the underlying tensions in this presidential pseudo-alliance.

Following the party-political line, the so-called ‘Connectivity Index’, a measure constructed by researchers at Peking University for evaluating the suitability of about 100 states for China’s Belt & Road Initiative, awards Russia the first place. Yet Russia is not formally a member in this initiative and consents only to its ‘link-up’ (sopryazhenie) with its Eurasian Economic Union project. A meaningful synergy in this construct is yet to be found.

The Ukraine crisis in spring 2014 prompted Putin to attempt an upgrade in relations with China. It was, indeed, the only way to consolidate Russia’s geopolitical positions in the escalating and deeply asymmetric confrontation with the West.

Expansion of Russia’s energy exports was supposed to be the main content of the upgraded partnership, and the gas deal between the two nations signified a breakthrough in political rapprochement.

More on this: Belt and Road: what's in it for China?

By the end of 2015, it had transpired, however, that the fast development of ‘green fields’ in Eastern Siberia and the construction of extra-long pipelines were tasks too ambitious for Gazprom, so the implementation of the deal was postponed into the 2020s.

Moscow’s offer of another pipeline from the Yamal fields was turned down by Beijing, and the volume of trade went sharply down, defying political guidelines.

That setback necessitated a new effort from the Kremlin to achieve the desired upgrade, making modern weapon systems, such as the S-400 surface-to-air missiles and the Su-35 fighters, available for sale. Beijing also made a step forward by taking a large share in the troubled Yamal-LNG project, which opened the door for Chinese companies into the Russian Arctic. Russia went as far in demonstrating its readiness to ally with China as staging a joint naval exercise in the South China Sea in September 2016.

All of this meant that security appeared to become the main track in the re-oriented partnership, but China opted to go slow in this direction because Russia escalated confrontation with the West. Its interference in the 2016 US presidential elections was against Beijing’s clear preference for Hillary Clinton, and it backfired badly with President Trump enforcing several sets of punishing sanctions.

The still-unfolding crisis in the US-Russian relations puts the China-Russia partnership on a steady path of deterioration. Beijing is reluctant to provide any meaningful support for Moscow and directs Chinese banks and investors to observe the sanctions regime. Cross-border ties have stagnated rather than blossomed.

More on this:Gas pipeline Russia... and how it's fuelling Asia

China has its own issues with the US, and since the promising first meeting between Trump and Xi Jinping in Mar-a-Lago, the exchange of tariff assaults has conjured the threat of a full-blown trade war.

The meeting at the G20 summit brought a pause in this escalation, but China has to brace itself for further shocks. Interactions with Moscow are irrelevant to Beijing in this crucial matter because Russia is an actor with miniscule significance in international trade affairs.

A key focus in US-China bargaining is the management of the Korean conundrum. Xi Jinping played a key role in delivering maverick Kim Jong-un to the summit in Singapore, which Trump still perceives as his great success. Hard data shows, however, that denuclearisation is not happening in North Korea, so a new spasm in the conflict is probable and quite possibly in sync with a clash in the US-China trade war.

More on this: China and Russia's uneasy dance

For it’s part, Moscow tries to pretend that it has a role to play in the political game of taming the Pyongyang regime. In reality, though, its contribution has been symbolic at best. In the Vostok 2018 exercises, it sought to demonstrate to China its capacity for projecting power, but the show was not altogether convincing. Russia has to concentrate the bulk of its capabilities on the Western theatre and remains unprepared for meeting security challenges to its vulnerable Far East.

The main value of the pseudo-alliance with Russia for China is in securing its long northern frontier, but this task is essentially accomplished. Moscow is far from happy with its growing dependency on the fast-risen super-power, which has – by the fact of its ability to get the priority attention from the US – curtailed Russia’s status to a secondary and declining power. China shows no inclination to enter into any arms control arrangements, and the failure of this crumbling ‘architecture’ reduces Russia’s status further.

Mutual irritation and barely hidden mistrust bode ill for the China-Russia relations, particularly since the economic foundation is so narrow. Moscow’s best hope is an escalation of US-China tensions, and Beijing counts on more trouble-making by Russia.

This piece is based on the author’s article on the Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies journal, ‘Three turns in the evolution of China-Russia presidential pseudo-alliance‘. All papers in the journal are free to read and download.

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Britain returns to the Indo-Pacific https://www.policyforum.net/britain-returns-to-the-indo-pacific/ Tue, 18 Dec 2018 02:11:57 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=29528 Alongside negotiating its relationship with the European Union, the British government has been developing naval and military connections in Asia, John Hemmings writes. To outside observers, the UK seems to be imploding in a self-inflicted domestic debate over its relationship with the European Union. Despite this unfortunately-accurate representation of the situation, British foreign policymakers across […]

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Alongside negotiating its relationship with the European Union, the British government has been developing naval and military connections in Asia, John Hemmings writes.

To outside observers, the UK seems to be imploding in a self-inflicted domestic debate over its relationship with the European Union. Despite this unfortunately-accurate representation of the situation, British foreign policymakers across Whitehall have managed to quietly and miraculously effect a major transformation in the country’s foreign policy posture.

Long-fastened to the Continent by the requirements of the Cold War, London has once more turned its attention to Asia, and while its efforts – such as its naval deployments and military exercises with regional powers – are unlikely to change the balance of power in the region, they are changing perceptions.

Like many liberal democracies, the UK has been on the back foot since 2014, with Moscow and Beijing challenging the rules-based system using a combination of sharp power, military coercion, and diplomatic assertiveness.

In the wake of its annexation of the Crimea, Russia has ramped up its proxy war against Ukraine, breaking its commitments as laid out in the 1997 Russia-Ukraine Treaty and attempting political assassinations on British soil.

More on this: Brexit: warning to ASEAN

China’s reaction to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 has been to carry out a global public relations campaign on the issue, while hastening its island militarisation. In many ways, this is more central to the security of the West since the South China Sea comprises one-third of global trade and is the primary corridor for Europe-Asia trade. Up to 12 per cent of the UK’s trade transits the corridor.

In some ways, the development of a ‘Global Britain’ strategy has come at an opportune time for British policymakers. In the wake of China’s increasingly assertive strategy in the South China Sea and its bolder ambitions across the Belt and Road, regional states have welcomed London’s new engagement.

The swift adoption of the ‘Indo-Pacific’ framework by the UK government in its Global Britain strategy belies the difficulty that it presents to some parts of the UK foreign policy establishment, who remain concerned about it being perceived as part of a containment strategy of China. Nonetheless, since 2016, the Prime Minister has used ‘Indo-Pacific’, while both Foreign Secretaries – Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt – have done so too. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and Trade Secretary Liam Fox have also followed suit.

Usage of the Indo-Pacific construct has allowed British policymakers to adapt to the realities of regional geopolitics. Aside from these, there are strong economic and diplomatic drivers for the UK to be fully engaged in the region.

More on this: Where is East Asia's Silicon Valley?

For one thing, the greatest growth over the next two decades will take place in container trade between East Asia and the Middle East. The region’s purchasing power will rise eight times between now and 2030, leading to what one report called “urbanisation and industrialisation on a gigantic scale not seen in human history”. The doubling of the global middle class will occur predominantly in the Indo-Pacific, with a strong requirement for infrastructure, services, and trade.

A ‘Global Britain’ seeks to develop free trade agreements across the region, including potential deals with Australia and India, and roll-on existing agreements with Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Vietnam. In July, Theresa May’s government also announced that it will seek accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

While it might appear at first to be a purely mercantilist strategy, the UK has also committed itself to defending what the Foreign and Commonwealth Office calls the Rules-Based International System. This commitment has seen London aligning ever-closer to regional partners like Australia in the AUKMIN talks (Australia-UK Ministerial Consultations) and Japan in the UK-Japan Foreign and Defence Ministerial Meeting.

While geography and resources constraints still play heavily on the mind of a Ministry of Defence that must face Russian revisionism closer to home, the UK has managed to carry out military exercises in Japan and deploy three warships to the region over the space of a year.

More on this: Japan - discovering and pivoting towards the Indo-Pacific

One of these, the HMS Albion, took part in a freedom of navigation manoeuvre in the South China Sea, raising a diplomatic protest from Beijing. In 2017, the British Ambassador in Washington, Kim Darrock, said that the HMS Queen Elizabeth – the UK’s new aircraft carrier – would also deploy to the region to “protect freedom of navigation and keep sea routes and air routes open”.

Regional states remain uncertain about Britain’s ability to commit to the Indo-Pacific, and that it is clear that this new policy approach has not yet entered public consciousness – which remains focused on Brexit and Europe.

Without proper resourcing and continued political support, a Global Britain in the Indo-Pacific ultimately cannot succeed. In the event of a fall of the May government, it’s not even clear that a Labour government would continue the strategy.

As the UK renegotiates its relationship with Europe, we are beginning to see a new global-facing posture, which gives it the possibility to engage in the Indo-Pacific region with increased vigour. There remain serious questions, however, before we can take Global Britain as a given.

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Honing Japan’s regional strategy https://www.policyforum.net/honing-japans-regional-strategy/ Mon, 17 Dec 2018 05:19:53 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=29467 Japan’s Indo-Pacific strategy needs clearer edges if the country is to ensure the regional order remains free and open, Kei Koga writes. Since Trump’s ‘Indo-Pacific’ speech in November 2017, Japan’s strategic vision towards the Indo-Pacific region, the ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy’ (FOIPS), has drawn international attention. The FOIPS is a strategic vision that primarily […]

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Japan’s Indo-Pacific strategy needs clearer edges if the country is to ensure the regional order remains free and open, Kei Koga writes.

Since Trump’s ‘Indo-Pacific’ speech in November 2017, Japan’s strategic vision towards the Indo-Pacific region, the ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy’ (FOIPS), has drawn international attention.

The FOIPS is a strategic vision that primarily aims to maintain the existing international order – premised on a set of principles such as the rule of law, a free market economy, and fundamental rights – in the Indo-Pacific region.

How can Japan achieve this vision? The FOIPS is an evolutionary concept, its form constantly changing over time. Regardless, its backbone rests on the alignment strategy, which envisions “US In, China Down, ASEAN/India/Australia Up .”

In maintaining peace and stability, it is imperative for Japan to ensure America’s strategic commitment to the region. In particular, responding to China’s potential challenges to the existing international order is vital in the context of its strategic outreach to Eurasia, Africa, and Eastern Europe. If such challenges are perceived as threats, they are to be constrained, if not contained.

More on this: Japan's 'Pivot to Asia'

This, however, is not enough. Securing the vast geographical areas of the Indo-Pacific region requires cooperation with Japan’s regional partners, ASEAN, India, and Australia. ASEAN is important in shaping the regional multilateral norms and legitimacy in Southeast Asia and beyond. India and Australia as democratic states are important players in safeguarding the existing international order, covering the Indian Ocean and Southern Pacific respectively.

ASEAN, India, and Australia are each limited in their regional capacity, but by coordinating their policies, they can achieve their goals.

Of course, Japan’s FOIPS framework was not created overnight. The origin of the vision dates back to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s opening speech at the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development in August 2016. The speech emphasised the importance of economic development, including the need for quality infrastructure between Asia and Africa as well as sea lines of communication between “the seas of Asia and the Indian Ocean.”

Abe’s personal commitment to the Indo-Pacific region can be seen through a number of his addresses over the last 10 years, highlighting that the strategy was born mainly out of Japan’s reaction to the emergence of potential obstacles put forward by China to existing international rules and norms.

One such concern was the increasing visibility of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which has pushed infrastructure development throughout the region since Xi Jinping’s two speeches in Kazakhstan and Indonesia in 2013. Japan’s other worry lay in China’s refusal to abide by the South China Sea Tribunal Award promulgated in July 2016.

The core elements of the FOIPS were therefore, first, the freedom of navigation and overflight through the enhancement of the rule of law, and second, the infrastructure and economic development adhering to international standards in the Indo-Pacific region.

More on this: Xi & Abe - back to 'normal'?

Admittedly, policymakers in Tokyo are yet to clearly indicate whether the FOIPS is intended to be a hard-nosed competitive strategy against China, or whether it hopes to leave Japan the political leeway to cooperate and shape China’s behaviour. But this is because the strategy is vague by design. Such vagueness allows Japan the flexibility in policy response to the rapidly changing strategic environment.

This was well illustrated by the Japan-US Summit in November 2017 for three reasons. Firstly, Tokyo was able to get the US on board with the concept of a ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’ to keep China in check. Secondly, the two countries emphasised the importance of freedom of navigation and economic development, which have been Japan’s strategic concerns. Finally, they agreed to the non-exclusive nature of the strategy, which leaves Japan’s options open for cooperation with China in future.

To date, the implementation process of Japan’s Indo-Pacific strategy has been relatively smooth. The Quad, a cooperative framework between Japan, the US, Australia and India, remains premature, but it functions as a forum to share their assessments on the regional strategic environment in the Indo-Pacific region. On top of this, this year, ASEAN has begun to formally acknowledge and discuss strategies during ASEAN-related meetings such as the ASEAN Summit and the East Asia Summit.

Looking ahead, however, there exist three main challenges. First, it is imperative for Japan to ensure very close policy coordination with its allies and partners. The nature of the FOIPS is intentionally unclear, leaving room even for allies and partners to be easily misguided.

This is particularly the case for the US, as American policies towards China are becoming more competitive, even as Japan is attempting to engage with and shape China’s behaviour. To maintain strategic consistency and avoid misunderstandings, therefore, constant and close communication is key in achieving agreed upon objectives.

More on this: Abe's Trump diplomacy

Second, ASEAN’s relevance requires greater clarification. ASEAN is located in the centre of the Indo-Pacific region, and its unity and centrality are respected by all the regional powers, including the Quad. It is still unclear exactly what role ASEAN’s unity and centrality will play. Without clarification, other countries in the region are likely to either neglect ASEAN or be entangled in its slow decision-making procedure.

Third, Japan needs to identify the strategic scope of the FOIPS, including details such as the degree of Japan’s involvement in infrastructure projects in South Asia and in maritime security in the South China Sea. Ambiguity might prove helpful when responding to the uncertain nature of regional affairs, but without clarifying its scope and the means to achieve its objectives, Japan risks strategic overstretch.

These are difficult tasks, but the policy’s vagueness would potentially increase strategic uncertainty in the region. In December, Japan will issue its new National Defense Program Guidelines, which aims to strengthen its defence capabilities, including its naval power projection.

As a first step, Prime Minister Abe should explain to his domestic and international audiences the status and future of the FOIPS in his policy speech to the Diet next year. Addressing these challenges is the key to future success in implementing Japan’s Indo-Pacific vision.

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A better climate in the South China Sea https://www.policyforum.net/better-climate-south-china-sea/ Thu, 04 Oct 2018 23:55:14 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=27594 While negotiations over sovereignty in the South China Sea appear to be in a deadlock, a focus on climate change and ocean protection could lead to calmer waters, Manuel Solis writes. The South China Sea (SCS) is the world’s most contested sea area with competing territorial and maritime claims from at least six coastal and […]

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While negotiations over sovereignty in the South China Sea appear to be in a deadlock, a focus on climate change and ocean protection could lead to calmer waters, Manuel Solis writes.

The South China Sea (SCS) is the world’s most contested sea area with competing territorial and maritime claims from at least six coastal and seafaring states: China (including Taiwan), Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Out of the six claimants, five are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

As a busy commercial and strategic gateway with abundant natural resources, the SCS is unfortunately defined by contestation. At stake is US $3.37 trillion of global trade passing through the SCS; fisheries worth US $21.8 billion; proven and probable oil reserves of 11 billion barrels of oil; and an estimated 900 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Competing claims for sovereignty, territory, maritime entitlements and natural resources in the SCS are all a recipe for what foreign affairs expert Robert Kaplan calls ‘Asia’s Cauldron’.

The default international legal instrument to address the overlapping claims in the SCS is the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). UNCLOS functions as the constitution for the world’s oceans and seas. It embodies novel legal concepts such as the exclusive economic zone and the extended continental shelf with its own dispute settlement mechanism.

More on this: NatSecPod: A shifting maritime landscape

Interestingly, UNCLOS also incorporates environmental protection clauses for the marine environment. However, climate change is not originally within the contemplation of the legal instrument.

So far, legal and international relations analyses tend to focus on the merits of territorial claims and potential geopolitical outcomes of disputes under UNCLOS. However, the dispute settlement mechanism under UNCLOS can be problematic.

We need look no further than the international arbitration case that the Philippines filed against China in March 2014. China remains steadfast in its argument rejecting the arbitral award to the Philippines, claiming the subject matter of the arbitration involves sovereignty and is thus outside the ambit of UNCLOS.

Effectively, the arbitral decision and its enforcement remain matters of contestation. Building consensus and achieving regional cooperation on the SCS are standing challenges for both ASEAN and the future of ASEAN-China relations.

Another problem is the way ASEAN has sought to peacefully resolve the disputes in the SCS. As early as 1992, ASEAN officially committed to addressing the SCS problem with the ASEAN Declaration on the SCS. It took another decade to reach a non-binding Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the SCS with China in 2002. This laid the groundwork for further consultations on a Code of Conduct in the SCS, which gained momentum after the arbitration ruling in favour of the Philippines in 2016.

More on this: Bogged down in the South China Sea

However, the negotiations on the Code of Conduct are tedious and only expose ASEAN’s institutional weakness. Even reaching a joint statement or communique on the SCS is proving to be a difficult task, with a single dissent from an ASEAN member country enough to create an impasse in the organisation’s consensus-driven decision-making process.

Beyond claims of sovereignty, territory and maritime entitlements, the SCS faces serious sustainability challenges, particularly from the threats of climate and ocean change. Undeniably, the SCS narrative is not just about contestation.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the ocean is a carbon sink that absorbs 30 per cent of the anthropogenic carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. The IPCC has highlighted in its Fifth Assessment Report that climate change negatively impacts ocean health in terms of ocean warming, acidification, sea-level rise and de-oxygenation putting marine ecosystems, marine biodiversity and fisheries at risk.

Under a business-as-usual scenario, University of British Columbia researchers predict that the ocean species in the SCS will decrease by up to 59 per cent by 2045 due to climate change. In the last three decades, fish stock has decreased by a third, while coral reefs declined at a staggering rate of 16 per cent in the last 10 years.

China’s State Oceanic Administration Report from the First Oceanic Research Institution admits that because of ocean warming, acidification and overfishing, coral reef systems in the SCS are degrading rapidly. The SCS is an unavoidably a hotspot for climate change and a major concern for the international climate change regime.

More on this: A South China Sea code of conduct?

Without a functioning and healthy ocean, the Paris Agreement goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius or well below 2 degrees Celsius is not achievable.

One attempt to address this has been through the Ocean Pathway initiative, which supports the goals of the Paris Agreement by increasing the role of ocean considerations in the UN negotiations and by incubating and accelerating climate action involving the ocean.

Considering that all ASEAN member states and China are committed to achieving international climate policy goals, there is considerable opportunity to pursue joint regional climate policy formulation and action in the SCS. Notably, ASEAN has been instrumental in promoting cooperation and integration among its member countries on climate policy.

Since 2007, ASEAN Summits have repeatedly identified climate change as a priority concern that can be tackled through regional cooperation. Established in 2009, the ASEAN Working Group on Climate Change recognises the need for cross-sectoral coordination and a global partnership to address climate change.

With China’s emergence as a leader on the global climate change stage, ASEAN has the opportunity to build consensus and strike a regional cooperation deal with its largest neighbour through the Ocean Pathway strategy. As a 2017 study published by the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs points out, it is time for ASEAN to take a forward-leaning role in ‘creating a team spirit’ around each member’s international climate change policy commitments.

This bottom-up approach resonates with the ASEAN way of diplomacy that puts a premium on national sovereignty, non-interference, and consensus in decision-making. By taking a proactive approach to the Ocean Pathway strategy, ASEAN can help reframe the SCS narrative from one of contestation to consensus-building and cooperation.

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National Security Podcast: Putting India in the Indo-Pacific https://www.policyforum.net/national-security-podcast-putting-india-indo-pacific/ Thu, 04 Oct 2018 02:42:43 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=27598 On this episode of the National Security Podcast, we look at how India is managing its strategic autonomy in an increasingly contested region. As the Indian Ocean Region becomes enmeshed in the greater Indo-Pacific architecture, how is India adjusting the way it interacts with regional actors? How is India responding to China’s Belt and Road […]

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On this episode of the National Security Podcast, we look at how India is managing its strategic autonomy in an increasingly contested region.

As the Indian Ocean Region becomes enmeshed in the greater Indo-Pacific architecture, how is India adjusting the way it interacts with regional actors? How is India responding to China’s Belt and Road Initiative and how has talk of receding US power impacted Indian strategic thinking? Chris Farnham talks to Darshana Baruah from Carnegie India to discuss how India sees the changing Indo-Pacific region. Listen here: https://simplecast.com/s/7bc2bcca

Darshana Baruah is an associate director with Carnegie India. Her primary research focuses on maritime security in Asia with a focus on the Indian Navy and its role in a new security architecture. She was a 2016 national parliamentary fellow, Australia, where she was associated in the office of the Hon. Ms. Teresa Gambaro MP, chair, Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade.

Chris Farnham is the presenter of the National Security Podcast. He joined the National Security College in June 2015 as Policy and Events Officer. His career focus has been on geopolitics with experience working in and out of China for a number of years as well as operating in Australia and Southeast Asia.

We’d love to hear your feedback for this podcast series! Send in your questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes to podcast@policyforum.net. You can also Tweet us @APPSPolicyForum or find us on Facebook.

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National Security Podcast: A shifting maritime landscape https://www.policyforum.net/national-security-podcast-shifting-maritime-landscape/ Thu, 20 Sep 2018 04:49:33 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=27399 China’s rise as a formidable maritime power is creating ripples through Asia and the world. This week’s National Security Pod dives into the troubled waters of the Indo-Pacific region. Why are Japan and Britain conducting Freedom of Navigation Operations in the South China Sea? What would an enduring peace in those contested waters look like? […]

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China’s rise as a formidable maritime power is creating ripples through Asia and the world. This week’s National Security Pod dives into the troubled waters of the Indo-Pacific region.

Why are Japan and Britain conducting Freedom of Navigation Operations in the South China Sea? What would an enduring peace in those contested waters look like? How is Trump affecting the US-China alliance? From navigating vessels through crowded sea-lanes to understanding the naval dimensions of the rules-based order, this week’s National Security Pod is all about maritime security. First, host Chris Farnham chats to Commodore Michele Miller from the Royal Australian Navy about the legal and operational issues surrounding maritime security in the South China Sea. Then, we hear from Euan Graham from the Lowy Institute about the recent Kakadu exercise in Australia’s Northern Territory and how the changing balance of power between China and the US is upsetting the regional order. Listen here: https://simplecast.com/s/74096e9b

Michele Miller has served in the Royal Australian Navy for over 30 years as a maritime warfare officer, and amongst an array of roles, has been a maritime exercise planner and commanded two ships. In 2018 she has been on secondment with the National Security College.

Euan Graham is a Senior Fellow at the Lowy Institute. He has been a close observer of East Asian security affairs for more than twenty years, in academia, the private sector, and for the British Government.

Chris Farnham is the presenter of the National Security Podcast. He joined the National Security College in June 2015 as Policy and Events Officer. His career focus has been on geopolitics with experience working in and out of China for a number of years as well as operating in Australia and Southeast Asia.

We’d love to hear your feedback for this podcast series! Send in your questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes to podcast@policyforum.net. You can also Tweet us @APPSPolicyForum or find us on Facebook.

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The Brief: Courting Duterte https://www.policyforum.net/courting-duterte/ Mon, 27 Aug 2018 05:04:19 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=26683 The Brief podcast is a short, sharp, snapshot of today’s policy landscape. On this episode, multi-award-winning journalist Marites Vitug looks at the rule of law and the future of the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte. President Rodrigo Duterte’s reputation for controversy and his ‘War on Drugs’ that has seen thousands of deaths has drawn international media attention. […]

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The Brief podcast is a short, sharp, snapshot of today’s policy landscape. On this episode, multi-award-winning journalist Marites Vitug looks at the rule of law and the future of the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s reputation for controversy and his ‘War on Drugs’ that has seen thousands of deaths has drawn international media attention. Seen as an authoritarian strongman leader abroad, Duterte nevertheless maintains high approval ratings at home, and is seen by many Filipinos as a relatable leader. In this episode of The Brief, Edwina Landale talks to award-winning journalist Marites Vitug, author of a new book, Rock Solid: How the Philippines Won Its Maritime Case Against China. They discuss Filipino populism, the integrity of the justice system, and the potential fallout from the South China Sea dispute. Listen here: https://simplecast.com/s/0b576471

Marites Vitug is the editor at large of the social news network Rappler. She is one of the Philippines’ most accomplished journalists, winning awards and public recognition for her reporting. A bestselling author, she has written several books on Philippine current affairs, including her recent book Rock Solid: How the Philippines Won Its Maritime Case Against China.

Edwina Landale is the presenter of The Brief. She is a student of Politics, Philosophy, and Economics at the ANU.

Show notes | The following were referred to in this episode:

Rappler – a social news network based in the Philippines

Rock Solid: How the Philippines Won Its Maritime Case Against China by Marites Vitug, available in the office of the ANU Philippines Project (contact Kent.primor at anu.edu)

Policy Forum Pod is available on iTunesStitcher, and wherever you get your podcasts. We’d love to hear your feedback for this podcast series! Send in your questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes to podcast@policyforum.net. You can also Tweet us @APPSPolicyForum or find us on Facebook.

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