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Administration vows to get tough with China
The Obama administration is signaling it plans to take a tougher stance with China on trade issues, including demanding that Beijing move more quickly to reform its currency system. As part of that new approach, the administration filed two new trade cases against China before the World Trade Organization….

Chinese Think Tank Warns US It Will Emerge As Loser In Trade War
A State Council think-tank in China has warned Washington that the US will come off worst in a trade war if it imposes sanctions against Beijing over the two nations’ currency spat.

Israel-Palestinian talks end without settlement deal: What happens next?
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US envoy George Mitchell hopped on planes to seek the support of regional leaders, with only two weeks before the Israeli settlement freeze expires.

Former Iraqi Gov’t Spokesman: Iraq is Central to a Major U.S.-Iran Deal to Share Influence in Region
Leith Kubbah, a former Iraqi government spokesman who currently resides in Washington, told the Iraqi daily al-Zaman that the U.S. is preparing a major package deal with Iran for sharing influence in the region….

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China ire at sea chase signals wider reach
Beijing’s reaction to the incident in the East China Sea involving a Chinese commercial fishing boat and the Japanese Coast Guard may seem overblown, given all available evidence. Yet it signals that Beijing may be preparing to extend the focus of its expression of core maritime interests to beyond the South China Sea.

Shariah a danger to U.S., security pros say
A panel of national security experts who worked under Republican and Democratic presidents is urging the Obama administration to abandon its stance that Islam is not linked to terrorism, arguing that radical Muslims are using Islamic law to subvert the United States.

India-China Ties in Deep Freeze
The deep chill that India-China relations have entered following Beijing’s refusal of travel permission to a senior Indian army commander responsible for Jammu and Kashmir is more widespread than the frustrations expressed by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. As mentioned on China Power, talking to Indian editors, Singh pointed to China’s new assertiveness and alleged that Beijing wanted to keep India at a ‘low-level equilibrium’ and suggested it also wanted Pakistan kept antagonistic towards it. But Singh certainly isn’t alone in his concerns. His views were echoed by India’s defence minister, A.K. Anthony, at a combined commanders’ conference in Delhi, and were also apparently reflected in the notes shared by visiting Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada with his Indian counterpart, S.M.Krishna, last month.
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China, Japan fishing boat standoff deepens amid delayed talks
With no end to the fishing boat dispute in sight, relations between Asia’s two biggest economies are in danger of backsliding.

Does India Want Stable Pakistan?
In the aftermath of yet another abortive attempt to reach a rapprochement with Pakistan this July, a time-honored debate has again been resurrected in New Delhi’s foreign and security policy circles. The debate revolves around the question of whether or not it’s in India’s interests to have a stable, secure and prosperous Pakistan. Yet the question in its present form misses the point. The real issue isn’t whether or not such an outcome is desirable. Instead, the more pertinent issue for India’s policymakers is to establish how such a Pakistani state would behave toward India.

China’s young officers and the 1930s syndrome
“China’s military spending is growing so fast that it has overtaken strategy,” said Professor Huang Jing from the Lee Kwan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore. “The young officers are taking control of strategy and it is like young officers in Japan in the 1930s. They are thinking what they can do, not what they should do. This is very dangerous. They are on a collision course with a US-dominated system”.

South Korea to Russia: The Cheonan was sunk by a torpedo, end of story
The South Korea government on Monday released the full version of its investigation into the March 26 sinking of the Cheonan, which it hopes will offer conclusive proof to a skeptical Russia that the explosion that killed 46 sailors was due to a torpedo fired by a North Korean submarine.
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Iraq Ambassador to U.S.: Iraq No Longer a U.S. Priority
In an interview with the liberal electronic daily Elaph last week, Iraqi Ambassador to the U.S. Samir al-Sumaida’i said that the Americans are currently preoccupied with Afghanistan, the domestic economic situation, and Iran, and that Iraq has …

Wikileaks Preparing A Massive Dump Of U.S. Intelligence Files On Iraq
A London-based journalism nonprofit is working with the WikiLeaks Web site and TV and print media in several countries on programs and stories based on what is described as massive cache of classified U.S. military field reports related to the Iraq War.

China’s rise triggers natural military cooperation among those made nervous
Great WAPO piece by the always good John Pomfret that highlights a recent theme of mine: no great need to “encircle” China, because the more the neighbors worry over its economic rise and foolish threats about the South China Sea, they will simply come to us–for arms and alliance.
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[Israeli] Navy tests new missile defense systems
In an effort to bolster its defenses in face of Hamas and Hizbullah’s growing anti-ship capabilities, the Israel Navy is testing a new missile defense system for its small and fast patrol boats that are tasked with enforcing the blockade on the Gaza Strip and Lebanon during wartime.

[UK] Defence Spending: Thousands Of Troops To Be Cut
Tens of thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen face the axe after ministers concluded that reducing the number of uniformed personnel in the Armed Forces was the best way to save money.

N. Korea uses lead-up to political conference to improve North-South relations
North Korea has used the lead-up to a major political conference to suggest resuming a reunion program for families living on opposite sides of the divided peninsula. But it has given few clues about the meeting, the backdrop for Kim Jong Il’s planned hereditary power transfer. Read the rest of this entry »

Long time readers of mine on my other site will recognize this as the old “read board” posting I made for several years. It in no way represents an official view, but just the opinion of what one Asia-Pacific FAO and security analyst thought was interesting on any given day. Hopefully you’ll find it useful, too.

Japan Defense Paper Highlights China’s Growing Military Reach
Japan voiced concern over China’s growing military muscle in a defense paper Sept. 10, as a right with Beijing continued over the arrest of a Chinese trawler captain in disputed waters.

Referendum in Turkey raises fears of too much Islam in government
Largely Muslim Turkey is split over a referendum on changes to the Constitution. Once again, critics warn of the secular state going Islamic. Prime Minister Erdogan needs to build trust among those who fear he and his religious party have a secret agenda.

Flooding deepens age-old fissures in Pakistan
KARACHI, PAKISTAN – Even in the best of times, Pakistan is a tenuous federation riven by regional, ethnic, sectarian and class rivalries. These are not the best of times. The South Asian nation is struggling to cope with cataclysmic floods that inundated every province, destroying infrastructure … Read the rest of this entry »

After backing down on initial plans to operate George Washington in the Yellow Sea as part of the initial round of US-RoK exercises in response to the sinking of the Cheonan, State and Defense seem to have come back with a counterpunch that will no doubt knock policymakers in Beijing off balance.

Opening a new source of potential friction with China, the Obama administration said Friday that it would step into a tangled dispute between China and its smaller Asian neighbors over a string of strategically significant islands in the South China Sea.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaking at an Asian regional security meeting in Vietnam, stressed that the United States remained neutral on which regional countries had stronger territorial claims to the islands. But she said that the United States had an interest in preserving free shipping in the area and that it would be willing to facilitate multilateral talks on the issue.

Though presented as an offer to help ease tensions, the stance amounts to a sharp rebuke to China.

You can say that again. In all, this is an excellent move and should help disabuse any notion in Chinese planning circles that they have the initiative in this dispute. The big question is, however, will Washington keep the press on, or is this just a one time poke to get Mr. Hu’s attention? I would bet most of the Asia-Pacific hopes we keep pressing.

[Update] No surprise, China’s government is up and spinning on the governor:

The Chinese government reacted angrily on Monday to an announcement by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that Washington might step into a long-simmering territorial dispute between China and its smaller neighbors in the South China Sea.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi of China warned the United States against wading into the conflict, saying it would increase regional tensions.

“What will be the consequences if this issue is turned into an international or multilateral one?” he asked in remarks published on the Foreign Ministry’s Web site. “It will only make matters worse and the resolution more difficult.”

The state-run news media were far less diplomatic, describing Mrs. Clinton’s speech as “an attack” and a cynical effort to suppress China’s aspirations — and its expanding might.

“America hopes to contain a China with growing military capabilities,” ran an editorial Monday in the Communist Party-run People’s Daily newspaper.

Global Times, an English-language tabloid published by People’s Daily, said, “China will never waive its right to protect its core interest with military means.”

Chris van Avery is a Military Professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. The views represented herein are his own.

Major General Luo Yuan, deputy secretary general with the PLA Academy of Military Sciences, recently engaged in an unprecedented online debate about the U.S. intent to conduct a major, combined US-RoK exercise in the Yellow Sea in response to North Korea’s sinking of the Cheonan. Following are the summaries of his arguments, courtesy of People’s Daily, with my responses:

First, in terms of security, Chairman Mao Zedong once said, “We will never allow others to keep snoring beside our beds.” If the United States were in China’s shoes, would it allow China to stage military exercises near its western and eastern coasts? Just like an old Chinese saying goes, “Do not do unto others what you do not want others to do unto you,” if the United States does not wish to be treated in a specific way, it should not forcefully sell the way to others.

Would the US allow such exercises? In a word, yes. Unless Washington was willing to publicly abandon freedom of navigation as a vital interest, it would have no other choice but to permit such an exercise. In fact, while many Americans have forgotten, for decades it was rather routine for Soviet naval forces to prowl up and down the Eastern Seaboard. The American response was merely to track, observe and wait for the next time.

Second, in terms of strategic thinking, China should take into account the worst possibility and strive to seek the best results. The bottom line of strategic thinking is to nip the evil in the bud. The ultimate level of strategic thinking is to subdue the enemy without fighting. Preventing crisis is the best way to resolve and overcome the crisis. China’s current tough stance is part of preventive diplomacy.

I’m really not sure what this means. If on one hand General Luo is characterizing Beijing’s stance towards Pyongyang’s behavior as “tough”, he and I obviously have different understandings of the word “tough”. If on the other hand the General is characterizing Beijing’s stand against the combined exercise as “tough”, the general may be right–Washington may be subdued “without fighting” and Sun Tzu will be smiling in his grave.

Third, in terms of geopolitical strategy, the Yellow Sea is the gateway to China’s capital region and a vital passage to the heartland of Beijing and Tianjin. In history, foreign invaders repeatedly took the Yellow Sea as an entrance to enter the heartland of Beijing and Tianjin. The drill area selected by the United States and South Korea is only 500 kilometers away from Beijing. China will be aware of the security pressure from military exercises conducted by any country in an area that is so close to China’s heartland.

The aircraft carrier U.S.S. George Washington dispatched to the Yellow Sea has a combat radius of 600 kilometers and its aircraft has a combat radius as long as 1,000 kilometers. Therefore, the military exercise in the area has posed a direct security threat to China’s heartland and the Bohai Rim Economic Circle.

Again, I can’t be certain where this is going, but it appears to be yet another attempt to try and lay claim to historical ownership of a wide swath of international waters and limit not just military access, but all access, betraying Beijing’s long-term desire to shape the interpretation of the Law of the Sea to China’s advantage.

Fourth, in a bid to safeguard security on the Korean Peninsula, the U. N. Security Council has just issued a presidential statement, requiring all parties to remain calm and restrained to the so-called “Cheonan” naval ship incident, which had caused a major crisis on the Korean Peninsula.

On the other hand, the joint military exercise by the United States and South Korea on the Yellow Sea has created a new crisis. This is another reason why China strongly opposes the military exercise on the Yellow Sea. In order to safeguard security on the Korea Peninsula, no country should create a new crisis instead they should control and deal with the existing one.

I read a lot, and from what I’ve read, the exercise only represents a “crisis” to Beijing. No one–not even the leadership in Pyongyang–believes such an exercise might be used to stage a reprisal for the sinking of the Cheonan.

Fifth, in terms of maintaining China-U.S. relations, especially the two parties’ military relations, China must declare its solemn stance. China has been working to promote the healthy development of China-U.S. military relations. Therefore, China has clearly declared that it is willing to promote the development of the two parties’ relations. Deputy Director of the General Staff Gen. Ma Xiaotian has also expressed his welcome to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates to visit China at a proper time.

This a classic, passive-aggressive response if I’ve ever seen one. Perhaps translated it might read, “Sec. Gates can visit China when America learns how to behave.”

Chris van Avery is a Military Professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. The views represented herein are his own.

The word on the street is that the Administration will release its updated National Security Strategy tomorrow. Consequently, the news is full of hints and pundits are abuzz with prognostications. It’s been said to be a return to a cooperative diplomatic, economic and alliance-centric approach, and include a new focus on “home-grown” threats. Most predictably, it’s being heralded by many as a break with the Bush administration, which seems to still be the pinnacle of achievement in the minds of many. Surprisingly absent from the previews is any discussion of the roles the ongoing global economic and financial responsibility crises pose to security, despite recent comments from Secretary Gates. All in all, the buzz makes the new NSS sound like the Navy’s cooperative strategy on steroids.

All the details revealed to date and subsequent commentary and discussion seem to reveal no major departures from the Administration’s strategy-in-practice of the last 17 months. We’ll talk (a lot) before we shoot. We’ll try to get others to bear a hand with the heavy lifting. So the big question after the release will be what it always is after major policy announcements: will it work?

To try and answer that question, I’ll ask my own question: how’s it working so far? Well, here are some examples:

  • Iran — No noteworthy departures from previous approaches or progress.
  • North Korea — Nuclear program still chugging along, with the loss of a RoK national asset and 46 sailors dead as collateral costs. Relations spiraling and the “great powers” are looking less “great” every day.
  • Russia — Successfully reasserting their influence–without major obstruction–in their near abroad. Appears to be winning in their battle against a U.S. national BMD system.
  • China — Proceeding with a military buildup like none since the inter-war years. Flexing their muscles inside the first island chain and increasing their reach into the second island chain. Proving they’ll continue to support rogue states when it’s to their benefit.
  • United Kingdom — Busy planning the funeral for the “special relationship”
  • Israel — Increasingly finding themselves all alone in an increasingly harsh wilderness.

Thus far, the answer to “will it work” doesn’t look promising to me. What say you?

Chris van Avery is a Military Professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. The views expressed herein are his own.

Michael Auslin at AEI is piecing together the recent activities of America and her allies, and the picture that’s shaping up isn’t pretty:

Decisions by the governments of Japan and Great Britain and the passage of the bankrupting health care bill in the US spell the coming end of America’s overseas basing and ability to project power. Should these trends continue, the US military will lose its European and Asian strategic anchors, hastening America’s eventual withdrawal from its global commitments and leaving the world a far more uncertain and unstable place.

To sum up his arguments, Britain and Japan’s recent decisions to reach for their own “reset buttons” with America, combined with an unprecedented budgetary mess in Washington may result in America having no money to pay for forward deployed power, and no friends willing to host forward deployed forces for extended periods. Given that the U.S. has been the most active nation in working to bring about stability–and the one most willing to do heavy lifting–the product of these changes will be more global instability.

The “stinger” has not yet been struck, but it appears for all intents and purposes America’s pushing itself–and being helped in our efforts–towards the world’s brow. What say you?

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