31 December 2014

AUS: Australia supports new mission in Afghanistan

Australian Defence Force operations in Afghanistan will enter a significant phase in the New Year. January 1st marks the start of Operation HIGHROAD, Australia’s new train, advise and assist mission.

The change marks the end of Operation SLIPPER, which has been Australia’s commitment to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan for the past 13 years.

The new operation is in line with the NATO-led mission transitioning from a combat role to Operation RESOLUTE SUPPORT; a train, advise, assist mission. Importantly, the transition also recognises that the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) have now taken the lead for all combat operations.

The Commander of Australia’s Joint Task Force 636 in Afghanistan, Major General David Mulhall, said the new mission recognises the improved capacity of the ANSF, largely as a result of Australian and international support.

AUS: ADF increases maritime patrol aircraft contribution to AirAsia aircraft search

RAAF AP-3C Orion (File Photo)

The Australian Defence Force has deployed two Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C maritime patrol aircraft to provide continuing assistance to the Indonesian-led search for the missing AirAsia aircraft.

Today’s flights follow yesterday’s mission where a single Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) AP-3C Orion aircraft launched from RAAF Base Darwin.

The two aircraft departed Darwin this morning to search two areas immediately north of Banka Island, which is located between Belitung Island and South Sumatra.

The search areas were assigned by Indonesia’s National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) which is leading the search operation.

The two Orions are expected to land at Royal Malaysian Air Force Base Butterworth following today’s sorties to allow the RAAF aircrews to spend more time in the search area and to provide the necessary facilities to support the aircraft.

News Story: PLA Air Force creates mockup of US base for target practice

An article in the January 2014 edition of the Canada-based Kanwa Defense Review queries if the PLA Air Force along with the Second Artillery Corps could completely paralyze the military airport located in the west of Taiwan and what kind of damage would be sustained by these military facilities.

It is clear from tests carried out in China's Dingxin experimental air base in northern Gansu's Jiuquan and its Korla air base located in Xinjiang's Bayin'guoleng Mongol autonomous prefecture that the amount of damage that the air force and the Second Artillery Corps can inflict is increasing and that their objective has shifted from its traditional target, Taiwan, to Japan and US military bases in Japan. Attacking US and Taiwanese military air bases is one of the main training objectives of the PLA Air Force and Second Artillery Corps, according to China's Global Times.

The attack range of the PLA Air Force has expanded in recent years. During live-fire military exercises at Dingxin air base in autumn of this year, the air force deployed 170 third-generation fighters and 17 air force brigades. The top five pilots were selected from the air force. In December 2013, there were 15 Shenyang J-11 fighters, three Xian H-6 strategic bombers, seven Xian JH-7 fighter bombers, seven J-8II interceptor fighters and several Chengdu J-7 interceptors deployed at Dingxin air base for joint military exercises. Taiwan's Taichung Ching-Chuan-Kang Airport was within range of the multirole aircraft taking part in the exercises, particularly the ground-attack aircraft which make up 50% of China's military aircraft.

Read the full story at Want China Times

Editorial: India - Indian Ocean First Responder?

By Ankit Panda

India’s response to the Maldivian plea for assistance over a water crisis shouldn’t be overlooked.

Earlier this month, Male, the capital city of the Maldives and home to some 100,000 people, faced an acute crisis when a fire at the city’s sole desalination plant left the city’s denizens without access to safe drinking water. The government immediately declared a state of crisis. India, the closest large state to the Maldives and self-professed guarantor of security in the Indian Ocean, responded with alacrity and competency. The Maldives water case should underscore the sort of preparedness in maritime assistance that India should aspire to. As I wrote earlier this year in The Diplomat, if New Delhi is to truly live up to its own ambitions of being the Indian Ocean’s maritime guardian, it will have to lead by example, both bilaterally and multilaterally.
The Maldives example, in my view, is an example of India demonstrating its value as a regional leader in the Indian Ocean. It was the first major state to react to pleas for assistance from the Maldives government. Initial reports suggested direct communication between the office of the Indian prime minister and the Maldives government. The Maldives, despite being a small island nation and not a major presence on India’s regional diplomacy radar, received the direct attention of both Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj 
Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Taiwan's New Stealth Corvettes - Just What the Doctor Ordered?

Hsun Hai class Corvette (File Photo)

By James R. Holmes

Taiwan’s got a new tool in its sea-denial toolkit.

Word has it the Taiwan Navy has taken delivery of Tuo Jiang, its first stealth corvette under the Hsun Hai, or Swift Sea, program. The news warrants a cheery huzzah! here at year’s end. These 500-ton craft pack some serious heat in the form of eight indigenously built anti-ship cruise missiles per hull. The Swift Sea marks the ROCN’s evolution from a force intent on ruling the waves to one that accepts that keeping China from ruling the waves is sufficient to Taipei’s purposes. This constitutes welcome change, years in the making.
Or so it seems. Changing a culture involves more than fielding new widgets, no matter how formidable. How a navy uses its fighting ships is at least as important as the technical capabilities manifest in those ships. The U.S. Navy, in effect the Taiwan Navy’s parent service, bequeathed habits of mind — not just platforms and warmaking methods — to ROCN mariners. Commanders and government officials reared on the American-inspired idea that navies’ purpose is to sweep their enemies from vital waters, wresting away untrammeled control for themselves, may find demotion to spoiler status hard to stomach.
And indeed, the guerrilla-like outlook characteristic of sea-denial navies is foreign to sea-control navies like America’s and Taiwan’s. It takes time, often compounded by some trauma, to compel an organization to reinvent itself. Defeat constitutes a particularly powerful stimulus. That being the case, let’s reserve the remaining two huzzahs until theHsun Hai program matures. Only then will it be possible to evaluate the ROCN’s cultural revolution — and, in turn, to estimate the efficacy of sea warfare, Taiwanese style. 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: How the Cultural Revolution Haunts China's Leaders

By Kerry Brown

Growing up during the Cultural Revolution had a lasting impact on Xi Jinping and his generation of elites.

The mainstream view, at least amongst the China-watching community in recent years, was that Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao’s generation would be the last to have a clear memory of the Cultural Revolution decade that began in 1966. Presumably, younger leaders belong more to the post-1978 reform era. Cheng Li in his 2001 book, China’s Leader’s: The New Generation, even went so far as to call the Hu-Wen generation the “unlucky” ones — their education disrupted, their careers put on hold or sometimes radically redirected because of the closure of universities at the end of the 1960s and the internecine battles within the Communist Party during this era. Those coming after them at least lived in a world of more normality.
A biography of Xi Jinping issued by Mirror Books in 2013, however, makes at least one thing clear. The “Decade of Turbulence” from 1966-1976 lay just as heavily, if not more so, on Xi, Li Keqiang, and Wang Qishan and their fellow fifth generation leaders as it did on previous ones. They might have been children when it started, but over the course of the years up to 1976 their most formative experiences, and the things that have most sharply shaped their world view till now, were from this unique period of modern Chinese history when Mao became an object of quasi-worship, society was convulsed by factionalism and violent battles, and every dimension of life was politicized. It is impossible to understand these leaders and their behavior today without taking this into account. 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: The Top 5 Achievements of Chinese Diplomacy in 2014

By Dingding Chen

Despite some challenges, 2014 was a very good year for China’s diplomacy; 2015 will be more or less the same.

There is little doubt that the year 2014 has been a very good year for Chinese diplomacy. AXie Tao pointed out, it is a year of “big strokes,” as evidenced by China’s economic gains in particular. Beyond this, I have compiled a list of the top 5 achievements of Chinese diplomacy in 2014 (and some of them will continue into 2015, thus deserving more attention from the world. )
First, China’s new grand strategy has finally emerged. For several years there has been a fierce debate within China about whether China should adopt a new grand strategy. The debate is over now, as Xi Jinping recently put forward a new strategy of “great rejuvenation,” as opposed to old one of “keeping a low profile.” The implications of this new grand strategy should not be underestimated since it will guide China’s diplomacy for the next 20 years, if not longer. If nothing else, one thing about this new grand strategy that should be clear to the international community is that China will be more confident and more active in its diplomacy. In other words, the international community must find a way to deal with such a China; we might call this development the “new normal” in Chinese foreign policy. 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

30 December 2014

USA: USS Fort Worth Arrives in Singapore

From USS Fort Worth Public Affairs

<< USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) arrives at Changi Naval Base, Dec. 29. (U.S. Navy/MC1 Jay C. Pugh)

CHANGI NAVAL BASE, Singapore - USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) arrived in Singapore Dec. 29 as part of a 16-month rotational deployment to 7th Fleet in support of the Indo-Asia-Pacific rebalance.

As part of an initiative to deploy up to four littoral combat ships to the region on a rotational basis, Fort Worth will operate out of Singapore as a maintenance and logistics hub from which the ship will conduct patrols and train with regional navies during exercises like Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training.

“The much-anticipated arrival of Fort Worth speaks to our important partnership with the Republic of Singapore Navy and to our shared commitment to regional security and stability,” said Rear Adm. Charlie Williams, commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific and commander, U.S. 7th Fleet’s Task Force 73. “As multiple LCS deployments become routine, ships like Fort Worth will become workhorses in 7th Fleet.”

India: “Make in India” Concept Dominates Acquisition Plans of MoD in 2014

2014 will go down in the history of the Ministry of Defence as a momentous and memorable year- a year which witnessed the country’s security policies being bolstered, new ideas being infused for acquisition and the much needed momentum being provided for the modernisation process of the Armed Forces. Three Defence Ministers- Shri AK Antony, Shri Arun Jaitley and the incumbent, Shri Manohar Parrikar led the Ministry in succession during the year.

“Make in India” became the buzzword in the corridors of MoD. The Defence Acquisition Council, the apex decision-making body of the Ministry, triggered a scorching pace of acquisition by clearing proposals worth over Rs 1.50 lakh crores for the Services this year alone. Many of the equipment and platforms, cleared by the Defence Acquisition Council, will be manufactured in the country, either by the public or private sector entities, through collaborations and tie-ups with foreign manufacturing companies. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the Defence Sector was encouraged by liberalising some of the policies.

One of the heartening feature of the year was the opening of the much awaited Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) – the nodal centre of the National Command Control Communications and Intelligence Network, a symbol of the paradigmatic change in our outlook towards coastal security, in the wake of the barbaric 26/11 terror strike in Mumbai in 2008.

It was also the year when Jammu & Kashmir, especially capital Srinagar, experienced hitherto unknown magnitude of flash floods. Although the Armed Forces and their families stationed in the valley were severely affected, the brave officers and men put behind their woes and carried out rescue and relief operations on a war footing, thereby, endearing themselves to the people of the state and the nation as a whole.

News Story: PLA drills sandwich Japan from north and south

Chinese Navy ships on patrol (File Photo)

The People's Liberation Army appears to be strategizing on how it would sandwich Japan from the north and south in the event of a military conflict, says a Taiwanese military expert.

Ching Chang, a research fellow at Taiwan's Society for Strategic Studies, made the comments in response to a series of naval drills conducted by the PLA's three main fleets — the North Sea Fleet, the East Sea Fleet and the South Sea Fleet — earlier this month.

On Dec. 4, the North Sea Fleet's flagship Harbin Type 052 destroyer, the 054A Yantai and Yancheng multi-role frigates, and the Taihu Type 903 replenishment ship, traveled east through the narrow Osumikaikyo Strait southwest of Japan, before heading north to perform drills by passing through the Kuril Islands north of Japan and into the Sea of Okhotsk. Then on Christmas Day, the fleet passed through the La Perouse Strait north of the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido before returning via the disputed East China Sea.

Read the full story at Want China Times

News Story: Vietnam's Kilo-submarines to potentially blockade Spratly islands

A Kilo class Submarine (File Photo)
Vietnam's six Kilo-class submarines purchased from Russia are very likely to be used to cut off the supply line of the People's Liberation Army's garrison at the disputed Spratly islands according to the Duowei News on Dec. 24.

China's nationalist tabloid the Global Times said that the People's Navy of Vietnam had already received three Kilo-class submarines from Russia. Vietnam's Kilo-class submarines are all equipped with 3M-14E Klub-S ballistic (cruise) missiles. With an attacking range of 280 kilometers, the missile can reach Guangdong province's Zhanjiang, where China's South Sea Fleet headquarters is located. China's major naval facilities on Hainan island are also within reach. In addition, the Kilo-submarines can attack PLA supply ships with its GE2-01 radar-guided torpedoes.

Read the full story at Want China Times


3M-14E Klub-S cruise missile (Wiki Info - Image: Wiki Commons)
Vietnam's ballistic (Cruise) missile can strike southern China: Kanwa

With an attacking range of 280 kilometers, the Vietnamese navy's 3M-14E Klub-S submarine-launched ballistic (Cruise) missile can be used against China's Hainan and Guangdong provinces when launched from southern Vietnam's Cam Ranh Bay, military analyst Andrei Chang, also known as Pinkov, wrote in an article for the Kanwa Defense Review, a Chinese-language military magazine based in Canada.

The purchase of 3M-14E ballistic (Cruise) missiles from Russia makes Vietnam's six Kilo-class 636MV submarines more powerful than their Chinese counterparts. Pinkov said the 3M-14E is only allowed to be exported to Algeria, India and Vietnam. It is not allowed to be installed aboard China's Kilo-class MV submarines yet. In a war between China and Vietnam, the Vietnamese navy is very likely to use the submarines in the vanguard against the PLA Navy.

Read the full story at Want China Times 

News Story: Taiwan needs radical defense strategies against PLA's growing might - US think tank

Taiwan needs to explore radical new ways to defend itself from the People's Liberation Army given the growing gap between the military capabilities of the two countries, says a US-based think tank.

In the report titled "Hard ROC 2.0: Taiwan and Deterrence Through Protraction," the Washington-based, non-governmental Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments suggests that Taiwan abandon traditional defense tactics in favor of geurrilla and cyber warfare given that their defense expenditure is dwarfed by that of the mainland.

"With the resource gap approaching fourteen-to-one (US$145 million to US$10.8 million in 2013), even if Taiwan were to massively increase its defence budget, it would not reverse the cumulative advantages the PRC has accrued over the past two decades," said the report.

Read the full story at Want China Times

Editorial: Testing the 'Modi Doctrine' - Russia and India in 2015

By Ankit Panda

Don’t hold your breath for a major shift in India-Russia relations in 2015.

In his inaugural piece for Flashpoints, our newest regular columnist Harsh V. Pant made a provocative — and compelling — case that India’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi, has ushered in a new era in Indian foreign policy. Modi’s foreign policy has departed from that of the Congress-led government that preceded him in major ways. Most prominently, Indian foreign policy in the Modi era seems to largely be free of the shackles of Nehruvian non-alignment thinking. Additionally, defying expectations, Modi has proven himself to be a dynamic globe-trotting diplomat.
While Harsh’s analysis is on point, at least one curiosity remains in Modi’s new foreign policy: Russia. While Modi dynamically engaged India’s South Asian neighbors, China, Japan, the United States, and even ASEAN, we only caught a slight glimpse of India’s approach toward Russia in the Modi era toward the end of the year. As this blog’s readers will be aware, it’s been a huge year for Russia on the international stage. To recap, Russia’s invasion of Crimea and ensuing support for anti-government Ukrainian rebels led to widespread international isolation and sanctions against it, primarily from Western powers. In the final quarter of the year, Russia’s economy has taken a dramatic nosedive with inflation skyrocketing and growth projections concomitantly collapsing amid tumbling oil prices worldwide. India and Russia have had a special relationship dating back to the early 1970s when the two converged during the Cold War (this despite India’s vocal pronouncements of a non-aligned foreign policy when the world split in two along ideological axes). Are things changing now?
As I’ve watched Russia’s behavior on the world stage this year and the state of Russia’s economy and politics, I’ve wondered how India would react. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India earlier this month was an important data point in answering that query. As Saurav Jha cataloged in an excellent feature piece earlier this month, Putin had a relatively productive visit to India despite all the problems facing his country. Significantly, and as many predicted, Narendra Modi welcomed Putin with open arms — he even went one step further than what standard protocol would require and rhetorically expressed India’s continuing and almost unconditional support for Russia in trying times. “Times have changed, our friendship has not,” Modi noted frankly. He added that “Now, we want to take this relation to the next level and this visit is a step in that direction.” Modi even said that India and Russia “stood by each other through thick and thin,” highlighting Russia’s current economic circumstances and perhaps even Moscow’s reluctance to condemn and isolate New Delhi following its nuclear weapons tests in the late-1990s. 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Aircraft Carriers in the Taiwan Strait

By Vasilis Trigkas

Aircraft carriers are a major factor in cross-strait strategic stability.

The recent landslide victory of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Taiwan’s local elections is drawing attention to the fragile détente between China and Taiwan, which has been at the core of the U.S.-China relationship for more than half a century. With the Shanghai Communiqué, Washington has openly declared its commitment to the One China policy with the sole condition of a peaceful and non-coercive cross-straits dialogue. It has also recognized Beijing’s political representation in international organizations over Taipei’s. At the same time, though, Washington has used its maritime superiority to limit Beijing’s tactical or strategic space in the event of a “strait crisis.”
If left unchecked, however, the DPP’s position on Taiwan’s independence – which is written into the party’s founding constitution and is part of its national narrative – has the potential to exacerbate security tensions in the Taiwan Strait. While any military scenario has been well simulated on both sides of the Pacific, the adverse implications for China-U.S. relations leave no space for military opportunism, even if one side predicts tactical victory.
Memories from 1996 – when Chinese missile tests in the strait prompted U.S. President Bill Clinton to order two fully armed carrier battle groups to pass through the Taiwan Strait – have shaped the strategic operational codes of the Chinese military and the Central Politburo. While China might have had the military resources to sink U.S. naval forces in its close periphery (quantity has a quality of its own) the strategic escalation that an attack against a U.S. carrier would trigger led Beijing to de-escalate. Since the importance of Taiwan’s reunification with the mainland remains an indispensible argument in CPC’s rhetoric on the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, China’s officials have long strategized about how to neutralize strategic U.S. superiority in the event of a new strait crisis. The 2008 acquisition of an old Soviet aircraft carrier from Ukraine should be seen in this context. This carrier is the missing piece in China’s strategic puzzle in its first island chain and adds new strategic variables to a Sino-U.S. clash over Taiwan. 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: The Rise of the 31st Army in Chinese Politics

By Bo Zhiyue

Two newly promoted leaders in China’s military and paramilitary both have ties to the 31st Army in Fujian.

Lieutenant General Wang Ning, newly appointed commander of the People’s Armed Police of the People’s Republic of China, and Lieutenant General Miao Hua, newly appointed political commissar of the PLA Navy, have at least two things in common.
First, in contrast to their immediate predecessors, they lack prior experience in their current jobs. General Wang Jianping, Wang Ning’s predecessor, had worked in the People’s Armed Police for almost two decades. He had been deputy chief of staff, chief of staff, and deputy commander before his appointment as commander of the People’s Armed Police in December 2009. Wang Ning, however, had worked all of his military career in the army until his appointment as the armed police chief.
General Liu Xiaojiang, Miao Hua’s predecessor, had worked in the PLA Navy for more than two decades. He began his career in the PLA Navy as secretary of General Liu Huaqing in 1980 but later was transferred to the General Political Department. He came back to the PLA Navy as deputy director of the Political Department in 1998 and was appointed political commissar of the PLA Navy 10 years later. Miao Hua, on the other hand, had never worked in the PLA Navy until December 2014 when he was appointed its political commissar. 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: US, South Korea, Japan Start Sharing Intelligence on North Korea

By Ankit Panda

The United States will serve as an intermediary for intelligence sharing between Japan and South Korea on North Korea.

The United States, Japan, and South Korea signed a military pact that will lead to the three countries sharing intelligence and other sensitive information on North Korea’s progress toward a nuclear missile as well as the state of the country’s general military preparedness. The pact comes amid an exchange of heated rhetoric between the United States and North Korea over an alleged cyberattack which the U.S. government claimed was either conducted by North Korean agents or with the sponsorship of the North Korean regime against Sony Pictures Entertainment in the United States (though the accuracy of the U.S. accusation has come under doubt recently). The pact went into effect on Monday pursuant to the signing of a memorandum of understanding between representatives of the three governments late last week. 
Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Will Philippine Talks With Communist Rebels Resume in 2015?

By Prashanth Parameswaran

Encouraging signs of fresh talks may mask familiar and formidable challenges

On Friday, media reports indicated that the Philippine government and communist rebels were moving towards restarting formal negotiations, following a ceasefire to end one of Asia’s longest running insurgencies.
Those reports largely cited statements from Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison. Sison had revealed in an online podcast in the local Tagalog language uploaded on December 21 that the CPP had since September been in preliminary talks in the Netherlands with a special team from the Aquino administration to end the insurgency, and that negotiations could begin as early as mid-January 2015. Sison also detailed what the next steps might be in an interview with The Manila Standard published December 25.
If true, the move would be a positive step toward ending a Maoist rebellion waged by the New People’s Army (NPA) – the armed wing of the CPP – since 1969 which has claimed more than 40,000 lives. The Communist rebels, which reportedly number around 4,000 and are active in 69 of 81 Philippine provinces, are still considered by the government to be its most pressing internal security challenge. Philippine president Benigno Aquino has also said that he wants to end the insurgency before his term ends in 2016. 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Is Indonesia Really The World’s Most Tolerant Muslim Country?

By Prashanth Parameswaran

The country’s vice president claims it is. The evidence suggests otherwise.

Indonesia is the most tolerant Muslim-majority in the world, the country’s vice-president Jusuf Kalla recently claimed in a Christmas Day speech in Aceh.
“In the Muslim-majority world, Indonesia is the most harmonious,” Republika Onlinereported Kalla as saying in his remarks ahead of commemorations for the 10th anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami that devastated the country.
“There’s no [conflict] here that compares with anything in any other country. We live together the most harmoniously,” Kalla said.
While Indonesia has long been recognized as a relatively moderate Muslim country, available data point to a far darker picture of religious tolerance than the sunny one Kalla suggests. To take just one example, according to a cross-national study on religious restrictions published by Pew in September 2012, Indonesia was actually one of the world’s most religiously restrictive states. Specifically, Indonesia was one of only five out of the 49 Muslim-majority countries in the world to register “very high” ratings in both metrics used in the study – government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion. The other four countries were Afghanistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Yemen – hardly good company in this respect. 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

29 December 2014

AUS: ADF joins search for missing Air Asia aircraft

RAAF AP-3C Orion Maritime Patrol Aircraft (File Photo)

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has deployed a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF)
AP-3C Orion Maritime Patrol Aircraft to assist in the Indonesian-led search for missing Air Asia flight QZ8501.

The Australian AP-3C Orion took off from Darwin this morning (Monday, 29 December, 2014)
to join the search operations.

The Chief of Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, said the ADF was ready and willing to support its Indonesian friends in the search for Air Asia flight QZ8501.

“The RAAF AP-3C Orion aircraft has a well proven capability in search and rescue and carries maritime search radar coupled with infra-red and electro-optical sensors to support the visual observation capabilities provided by its highly trained crew members,” Air Chief Marshal Binskin said.

Further information about the AP-3C Orion is available at the RAAF Website.

News Story: Japan Plans Law To Speed Up Overseas Deployment Of Troops

TOKYO – Japan plans to draw up a law to speed the deployment of troops overseas for peacekeeping operations and to support allies, reports said Sunday, in a move that could strain relations with neighbors wary about Japan's wartime history.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) plan to draw bills early next year aimed at facilitating administrative processes to deploy Japanese troops abroad, the leading business daily Nikkei and other media reported.

The move would overwrite the past practice of ad-hoc legislation each time Japanese Self-Defense Forces were deployed abroad, except in UN peacekeeping operations and in emergencies in Japan's neighborhood — cases for which Japan already has permanent laws.

The bills would govern the dispatch of Japanese troops overseas in logistical support of multinational forces or key ally the United States.

Read the full story at DefenseNews

Editorial: LDP Hegemony and the Future of Japanese Foreign Policy

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

By Peter Harris

With Shinzo Abe returned to power, is Japan back to an era of foreign policy stability?

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe managed to increase his electoral majority in Japan’s lower house in elections held earlier this month. Although historically low turnout diminished the potency of Abe’s “mandate” from the people, the LDP politician can be forgiven for using his fresh – indeed, crushing – electoral victory as justification to press ahead with some controversial policies in the immediate- term. Yet Abe’s convincing showing at the polls also portends some important implications for long-term Japanese politics, particularly with respect to Japan’s role in the world.
Abe called snap elections amid criticism of his divisive economic reforms, dubbed Abenomics. Aided by the largely lackluster showing of the opposition parties, the prime minister was able to win the day in conclusive fashion: his right-of-center Liberal Democratic Party won 291 seats in the House of Representatives, well over the 238 needed for a parliamentary majority. Combined with the seats taken by coalition partners Komeito, this haul gives Abe’s government a commanding 326 seats (over 68 percent of the total) in the new-look lower house. The LDP-Komeito coalition already wields a solid majority in the House of Councilors, Japan’s upper house, which is elected separately.
Nearly half of eligible voters declined to vote in the recent elections, which for some onlookers points to a worrying trend of disengagement and disillusionment among the Japanese electorate. But by far the most significant trend in historical terms is the fact that the LDP has seemingly managed to weather what once looked like a formidable challenge to its hegemony in Japanese politics. Barring a brief spell of fragile coalition governments during the early- to mid-1990s, the LDP governed Japan continuously between 1955 and 2009, exerting a steady and predictable influence over the direction of East Asia’s largest economy. In recent years, however, an insurgent force in Japanese politics – the Democratic Party of Japan – had threatened to break the LDP’s dominant party status, wresting the premiership from the LDP’s grip between September 2009 and December 2012. 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Jokowi Visit An Opportunity for Indonesia to Tackle its Papua Problem

By Prashanth Parameswaran

President’s Christmas visit to Papua provides momentum to address longstanding grievances

Indonesian president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is now on a weekend visit to the restive eastern region of the province of Papua to begin to address a half-century long separatist insurgency that continues to simmer there.
Jokowi is in Papua to attend national Christmas celebrations, which he decided to hold there for the first time (they are usually held in Jakarta). But he is also using the visit as an opportunity to confront Indonesia’s troubling legacy in Papua, long a black mark on its human rights record.
For decades, a deadly cycle of violence has persisted in Papua due to socioeconomic and political grievances toward the state and the heavy-handedness of security forces, which appear to operate with impunity. Jokowi had vowed to tackle the problem head on in the run-up to the presidential election, floating ideas such as lifting restrictions on the foreign press and constructing a new presidential palace near the Papuan capital of Jayapura.
Jokowi’s weekend visit is a good chance to begin to deliver on that promise, and his full itinerary suggests that he and his team recognize that. On Friday, even before leaving Jakarta for Papua, he summoned church leaders to get their input on what should be addressed. Jokowi’s trip itself will comprise mainly visits to three cities. Following his arrival in Jayapura on December 27, the president will give a speech to open the Christmas celebration in Papua Bangkit Square at Sentani Airport. He will then visit the city before continuing on to Wamena in Jayawijaya regency and Sorong in West Papua, where the trip will end on December 29. 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

27 December 2014

Editorial: A Holiday Primer on Salami Slicing

Chinese Navy ships on patrol (File Photo)

By Robert Farley

How to approach the complex problem of “salami slicing” in the South and East China Seas.

How do we know when we’re faced with a salami slicing strategy? Ryan Martinson has recently reviewed Linda Jakobson’s work on the bewildering complexity of China’s maritime complex. Similarly, Jon Solomon has discussed some solutions of the problems associated with a salami slicing strategy. Solving the complex problem of salami slicing depends, to great extent, on our ability to recognize such a strategy.
Salami slicing works best against a coalition of states with uncertain levels of commitment. It identifies extended deterrence commitments as the vulnerable ligaments that hold a coalition together, and tries to place stress on those connections. Salami “slices” have greater strategic than intrinsic value, although the “slicer” can take advantage of differences in how the opposing coalition values particular objects.
Salami slicing requires long range planning, careful assessment of the commitment of an opponent. If an opponent is more interested in an excuse for aggression than in deterrence, then slicing can result in catastrophe.  If the slices are too large, the effort can produce counter-balancing. 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: China's Foreign Policy in 2014 - A Year of 'Big Strokes'

By Xie Tao

A look at China’s foreign policy moves in 2014, and what’s in store for 2015.

The Chinese have a phrase to describe plans or actions that are eye-catching or have far-reaching impact. It is “da shou bi,” which may be translated into English as “big strokes.” The past year was undoubtedly a year of “big strokes” for Chinese foreign policy.
In 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited 18 countries across Asia, Europe, Latin America, and Oceania. He also hosted the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Shanghai and the APEC summit in Beijing. The former was attended by 11 heads of state, two heads of government, and ten leaders of international organizations, and the latter by 20 heads of state or government. Whether a home game or a road game, China’s top leader apparently managed to make it a big stroke game.
Frequent travels abroad and high-profile summits at home certainly add to China’s international influence, but the real big strokes lie in monetary terms. The Chinese government pledged $10 billion and $41 billion for the BRICS Development Bank and the BRICS Emergency Fund respectively. It also founded the 21-member Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and made an initial contribution of $50 billion. Last but not least, China contributed $40 billion to establish the Silk Road Fund. As many governments around the world are struggling with severe fiscal shortfalls, the Chinese government’s largesse is all the more eye-catching. 

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Editorial: The China-Japan Détente Examined Through the Soviet Prism

By Miguel Oropeza De Cortéz-Caballero

Comparing current Sino-Japanese relations to the Soviet-U.S. thaw of the 1970s.

The enthusiasm, or lack thereof, which radiated from Chinese Premier Xi Xinping as he shook hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at last month’s APEC summit in Beijing was surely one of this year’s highlights of the annual meeting. Frostiness aside, it was an important moment that marked a turn in China-Japan relations that in recent years have been anything but warm. The reversal has been such that more and more the term détente, usually reserved to describe the U.S.-Soviet relations during the 1970s, has been used to describe the current state of relations between Beijing and Tokyo, including in a recent editorial in the New York Times written by Akio Takahara, Japanese Secretary General of the Japan-China Committee. What exactly does détente mean in the context of complex Sino-Japanese relations?
Although in the West the term may be synonymous with the thawing of icy relations between any two great powers, the understanding of détente in China goes further, retaining a distinctly Soviet framing. Despite the fact that Sovietology is seen as an increasingly irrelevant field of study in the West 25 years after the end of the Cold War, it remains popular amongst the Chinese leadership, who vividly remember the USSR and have developed what some call an obsession over studying what led to the demise of their former rival. As an example, one need not look further than a film produced last year in China about the fall of the Soviet Union, which had among its intended lessons to “correctly understand the lessons of history.” The Soviet specter being a haunting presence for Chinese policymakers has implications as Tokyo and Beijing retreat from brinksmanship. 

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Editorial: Who Should Worry About Pakistan’s School Carnage?

By Malik Siraj Akbar

Is the tragic Peshawar massacre a symptom of Pakistan’s continued tolerance of the Taliban?

Pakistan has a unique relationship with terrorism: It is safe ground for terrorist training and offensives, it is a regular victim of terrorism, and, at the same time, it is a state that is perceived as an apologist and a justifier of terrorism. Pakistan’s complicated struggle with jihadists is no clearer than now in the aftermath of the Taliban school massacre in Peshawar that killed more than 130 children.
It is not the right time, some may argue, to point fingers at the Pakistani army and intelligence agencies, which for years have had connections with and even supported the same jihadist elements that carried out the attack. After all, most of the children who were killed in the Peshawar attack by the Taliban were presumably from military families. Some would insist that tragedies like this one should convince the world that the Pakistani army is paying a heavy price for its engagement in an operation against the Taliban – a Taliban spokesman confirmed that the attack was meant to avenge an ongoing operation against them in the country’s tribal regions bordering Afghanistan.
The core problem with the army’s commitment to the fight against the Taliban is that not everyone in the ranks of the armed forces is fully convinced that this is Pakistan’s war. The soldiers are not fully motivated to fight this war because they believe that their bosses are killing “fellow Muslim brothers” on the instructions of the Americans, while the real decision-makers in the army and the intelligence agencies believe that absolute abandonment of the jihadist ideology may lead to catastrophic consequences for Pakistan’s long-term interests in Afghanistan and the disputed territory of Kashmir.
In other words, the Pakistani military strategists refuse to concede that they have lost control over the jihadists. Meanwhile, the architects of the pro-jihad policy suffer from an overconfidence syndrome and mistakenly believe that they are still fully capable of shutting down the jihadist franchise whenever they wish to do so. If that is true, then, according to the army’s standards, the Peshawar attack is not the worst that could happen. 

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Editorial: Pakistan Responds to the Peshawar School Massacre

By Mina Sohail

Intense public outrage is forcing the government to step up its fight against terrorism.

Mohammad Hilal, 16, lies motionless on his bed in the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar. He is one of the survivors of the December 16 massacre at the Army Public School, which left 145 dead, including 132 children. Five young men give Hilal a firm handshake, placing flowers behind him on the windowsill.
“These men aren’t Hilal’s friends,” says Nahida Bibi, a nurse in the male Orthopaedics B ward. “Every day, people from nearby areas and cities come to meet these children and comfort their parents.” Bibi has been working at the hospital for less than two weeks, and already she has been exposed to what many now regard as Pakistan’s 9/11. “When Hilal came here, he had severe fever and would bleed a lot,” she says. “He still has shoulder and lower limb injuries but is recovering slowly.”
Hilal’s father, Mohammad Bilal, is a gardener at his son’s school. Locked inside a room with his colleagues until the commandos and Special Services Group (SSG) had overcome the seven terrorists inside the school building, he was told that no child had survived. “When the siege ended, I went straight to the military hospital and found my son bleeding,” he says, overcome with emotions of relief and bliss. “I will take my son back to school once it reopens and he recovers,” says Bilal. “If we don’t go, then it means we have lost.”
When the terrorists entered the school auditorium, more than 100 kids – mostly from grades 8, 9 and 10 – were taking part in a first aid training session. The seven gunmen entered the room shooting indiscriminately. Some of the children managed to stayed alive by pretending to be dead. Most were slaughtered. 

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26 December 2014

Editorial: France’s Born-Again Proliferation Beliefs Ring Hollow

By Yousaf Butt

How to explain French obstructionism on Iran? Look to its lucrative regional trade agreements with Gulf Arab monarchies.

Having failed to reach an agreement last month, Tehran and the P5+1 world powers – the five UN Security Council members plus Germany – decided to kick the can down the road, setting a new “final final” deadline of July 1, 2015. They all met again last week in Geneva for yet more jaw-jaw but there is little prospect of an immediate breakthrough. While the hardliners in Congress and in Iran are painted as the main impediments to a deal, there is another issue simmering below the surface: the French are reported to be out-hawking Washington on proliferation concerns by throwing up impulsive Gallic objections to an agreement. This is a decidedly odd stance for Paris to take. The real reason probably has less to do with France’s born-again proliferation beliefs than good old greed for lucrative Gulf-Arab defense and nuclear contracts.
For starters, France is itself a latecomer to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), not acceding until 1992 – a full 24 years after the NPT was opened for signature. (Iran, in contrast, was one of the original founding signatories.) Before 1992 – and even since then – France has had a poor proliferation record so its high-and-mighty attitude at the Iran talks has raised more than a few eyebrows.
During the 1960s and 70s, France supplied nuclear reactors, manpower and technology to Israel and Iraq: the now-infamous Dimona and Osirak reactors were sold by the French (PDF). France also supplied Iraq with the highly enriched uranium fuel used to power the Osirak reactor and resisted calls to modify the fuel to lower-enrichment. And both Pakistan and India got invaluable French help in developing their nuclear programs – even in the face of well-founded suspicions that these countries may be weaponizing. In the late 1970s, Paris finally had to be strong-armed by the Carter administration not to export a large reprocessing plant to Pakistan. France continued to assist India’s nuclear efforts though, even after New Delhi exploded its first nuclear device in 1974. 

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