The CSS Blog Network

Asia’s Game Without Frontiers

Chinese and Pakistan border guards at Khunjerab Pass, Karakoram Highway. Source: A. Maw / Wikimedia Commons

NEW DELHI – Nowadays, many people seem to be more relaxed than ever about nationality, with the Internet enabling them to forge close connections with distant cultures and people. But states remain extremely sensitive about their borders’ inviolability. After all, territory – including land, oceans, air space, rivers, and seabeds – is central to a country’s identity, and shapes its security and foreign policy.

States can respond to territorial disputes either by surrendering some aspects of sovereignty, thus weakening their power and influence, or by adopting a more robust national-defense strategy aimed at fending off current challenges and precluding future threats. Today, many Asian countries are choosing the latter option.

Consider the territorial disputes roiling the Indian Ocean and other East Asian regions, sparked by China’s repeated – and increasingly assertive – efforts to claim sovereignty over vast maritime areas. As China’s incursions reignite long-smoldering disagreements and threaten to destabilize the regional status quo, countries throughout Asia are reconsidering their strategic positions.

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Japan’s Militarization Would Threaten Regional Security

A vessel from the Japan Maritime Self Defense Forces. Image by US Pacific Fleet/Flickr.

On July 21, 2013, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) achieved a decisive victory in an upper house election, making the party the dominant power in both lower and upper houses. As a result of this election, the ruling coalition is in an environment that is more conducive to their policies and thus amendments are more likely to get passed in both houses. Both Prime Minister Abe and Secretary-General of LDP Ishiba have the goal of amending Article 9 of the constitution, which states that “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.” This article is well known in the international community as having kept Japan away from armed conflicts since WWII.

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Obama and Nuclear Weapons: Calls for Bold Action

Barack Obama

Barack Obama. Photo: Matt Ortega/flickr.

On 19 June, President Obama announced his intention to reduce the number of deployed nuclear weapons by up to a third. Speaking in Berlin, he said ‘So long as nuclear weapons exist we are not truly safe’, while also announcing that the US will work with NATO allies to seek ‘bold reductions’ in both US and Russian tactical weapons in Europe.

He pledged to pursue US ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and to begin negotiations to end the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons – neither of which has made any headway in the last fourteen years. He also announced that the US will host a Nuclear Security Summit in 2016, following previous successful summits in Washington, DC and Seoul, and the forthcoming 2014 summit in the Netherlands. » More

ANZUS and the new Defence White Paper

F/A-18 and F-16's fly in formation over Sydney, Australia

F/A-18 and F-16’s fly in formation over Sydney, Australia. Photo: Department of Defence/flickr.

Last Friday’s Defence White Paper (DWP) rightly drew a lot of praise from (most) of the analytical community and the media. Many commentators, including myself, welcomed the more cautious tone regarding China’s military rise and the dismissal of Australia having to choose between Washington and Beijing. Does that mean Australia is less supportive of our US alliance? I’d argue that exactly the opposite is the case. There are several key points that support my view.

First, being more nuanced about China’s military capacity and intentions shows a maturation of Australian strategic thinking which surely is welcomed in Washington. As it seeks to integrate (not contain) China, Washington doesn’t need alarmist rhetoric about Beijing from its allies. It also doesn’t want us to invest in military capabilities such as nuclear submarines or long-range strike assets which would unnecessarily duplicate theirs and send provocative signals to China. » More

Praetorian China?

Soldiers of the Chinese People's Liberation Army 1st Amphibious Mechanized Infantry Division

Soldiers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army 1st Amphibious Mechanized Infantry Division. Photo: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/flickr.

OSAKA – Do China’s rulers have full civilian control of their country’s military? Asian governments are now regularly asking themselves that question as China hardens its stance on its claims to islands in the South and East China Seas.

Perhaps the gravest incident so far came this January, when Chinese naval forces twice locked their weapons’ radar systems – the final step before firing – on a Japanese destroyer and a patrol helicopter. In the diplomatic ruckus that ensued, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson was, at first, utterly ignorant of the incident and asked that the journalists posing the questions put them directly to the Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA) leadership. » More

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