Monday, May 29, 2017

Manchester and Marawi



As we mark the anniversary of the Battle of Tsushima,  we may be witnessing an yet another battle with similar consequences for the balance of power in the Pacific. That battle is going on as we speak on Mindanao, where a government attempt to arrest a senior member of Abu Sayyaf has now become a protracted battle in the global war between established governments and the Islamic State.

As a global semiotic and political franchise, the Islamic State manifests in different forms according to what is possible. In Manchester, it's taken on the form of classic terrorism, but in an even more dramatic and lethal way. In Mindanao, Islamic State has manifested itself as part of a classic "Foco" insurgency, similar to those waged in Latin America in the closing decades of the last century.  In Southeast Asia,  the growth of Islamic State will likely be fueled by the same factors which have driven classic guerrilla war: the appropriation of popular reaction to poverty and repression as pretext to effect regime change.

"'Foreigners among fighters' who seized Mindanao city," Straits Times 27 May 2017
"There are... Malaysians, Singaporeans… in the fight that has been ongoing in Marawi. We are continuously verifying that there have been a number of them who have been killed," military spokesman Restituto Padilla said at a news conference here."

"ISIS not a figment of the President's imagination," Manila Times, 28 May 2017 
According to a report by Agence France-Presse, a security expert discussed extensively the creation of a militant base in Mindanao. “Currently, IS is moving towards creating a territory in southern Philippines. The most recent communication issued by IS has announced that they have formally declared an East Asia division of IS in the southern Philippines,” counter-terrorism analyst Rohan Gunaratna said. 
“The instability in the southern Philippines and the availability of weapons, internal displacement, refugee flows … create the ripe conditions for foreign terrorists to come,” he told AFP after his speech.

"Urban warfare still a challenge for soldiers in Marawi," Rappler 27 May 2017
“We are in total control of the whole area but it’s not cleared due to the urban terrain,” Año told reporters at the sidelines of the visit of President Rodrigo Duterte to the Philippine Army’s 2nd Mechanized Battalion headquarters in Barangay Maria Cristina late Friday afternoon. 
“We have to clear one step at a time, house to house, block by block,” added Año, who placed the number of Maute Group members occupying some structures and houses in Marawi at less than 100. 
He said soldiers use simple tactics in operating in a rural setting which cannot be applied to a city battle. “Here (Marawi) all it takes is for an armed person to position himself inside a building….It would take time before it could be cleared," Año said. 
To fast-track the clearing operations of the military, Año said more soldiers have been deployed to Marawi, but did not say how many.

'Marawi, martial law and the 2-track strategy," Inquirer.net 29 May 2017
When Rodrigo Duterte became President, ... he adopted a two-track approach. He continued the existing peace processes, mainly in preparation for a new autonomous Bangsamoro region, one part of a possibly federal Philippines. He also gave marching orders to escalate the war against terrorists, above all the Abu Sayyaf.  
This two-track approach reflects a dual understanding of the situation: first, that there are legitimate entities fighting for  himethnonationalist aspirations and, second, that there are peace spoilers or criminal gangs using the mask of global terrorism to increase their “fear factor.” For the latter, he has made use of intensified military operations. 
But will this approach work? 
“From Hunger to Anger” tells us that for as long as the Philippines, especially Mindanao, remains “peripheral regions devoid of employment-generating and high-value-added industries … endemic poverty and economic underdevelopment will persist in the region.” Repeating the well-known wisdom, disenfranchised segments of the population who cannot access basic social services and decent economic opportunities will always be ripe for recruitment.

"Violence to worsen poverty in Lanao del Sur -experts," Business Mirror, 28 May 2017
Lanao del Sur, based on the 2015 Poverty Statistics, is the poorest province nationwide with a poverty incidence rate of 71.9 percent in 2015. This means that 7 out of 10 residents of the province are poor. 
The province’s capital city, Marawi, had a poverty incidence rate of 60 percent, based on the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) Small Area Estimates in 2012. “Poverty depends on income and livelihood,” Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) senior research fellowJose Ramon G. Albert said. “Livelihood ultimately depends on peace, law and order, and a good investment climate.”

Monday, May 22, 2017

One Belt, Many Yokes

Suckers

China's "New Silk Road," as exemplified in the One Belt One Road (OBOR) and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiatives, is being sold to the world community as a leveraging of partnerships for a common good. Unfortunately, it increasingly looks like what's really being leveraged are the partners themselves

"CPEC is China's Plan To Make Pakistan A Client State, But The Latter Will Pay For The Privilege," R Jagannathan, Swarajya, 15 May 2017

Leak of a key CPEC document reveals agenda to embed Chinese influence and power in Pakistan while encumbering the nation in debt
https://swarajyamag.com/world/cpec-is-chinas-plan-to-make-pakistan-a-client-state-but-latter-will-pay-for-the-privilege

Moreover: CPEC driving repression in Balochistan, Kashmir: Business Standard, Jammu Scoopnews

"China's OBOR Vision: No Development Masterpiece," Salman Sheikh, Asia Sentinel, 19 May 2017

Debt-driven projects such as China-Laos Railway, Indonesia light rail, are typical OBOR incentives
http://www.asiasentinel.com/econ-business/china-one-belt-one-road-vision/

"Malaysia's balancing act between Asean and Beijing," Leslie Lopez, Straits Times, 19 May 2017

Infrastructure projects in Malaysia linked to Maritime Silk Road aimed at bolstering China hegemony in South China Sea, influence over Malacca Strait; 1MDB bailout a prime incentive
http://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/malaysias-balancing-act-between-asean-and-beijing

Furthermore: Mushrooming public debt in Central Asian countries have already paved the way for the western links of the New Silk Road: rferl.org; Asia Times

Finally: "Chinese taxpayers have most to fear on Silk Road," NASDAQ Breakingviews, 16 May 2017

OBOR likely to foment domestic credit crunch in China, just as economic growth has stalled

Monday, May 15, 2017

Playing Fast and Loose


Putin’s Russian Roulette in Afghanistan
ASPI Strategist, 10 May 2017

The Kremlin’s engagement with the Taliban, regardless of extent, complicates everything and reassures no one

https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/putins-russian-roulette-afghanistan/

Explaining the roots of KNU power struggles
New Mandala 10 May 2017

Rival factions within the Karen insurgency has implications for Myanmar’s peace process

http://www.newmandala.org/knu-ceasefire-contestation-beneath-myanmars-peace-process/

Pakistan’s economic progress is very real – and very precarious
Lowy Interpreter 11 May 2017

The “world’s most underrated economy“ remains at risk due to a host of internal issues, and relying on CPEC to fix things probably won’t work

https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/pakistan-s-economic-progress-very-real-and-very-precarious

A Korean View of Japan’s Article 9 Debate
CFR Asia Unbound 12 May 2017

As Japan goes forward with constitutional reform, it will further complicate an already ambivalent relationship with Korea

http://blogs.cfr.org/asia/2017/05/12/korean-view-japans-constitutional-revision-debate/

Implications of Trump’s Flip-Flop on the South China Sea
IPP Review 12 May 2017

The confidence of America’s partners in the region is eroding in the face of the new President’s “transactional” approach

http://www.ippreview.com/index.php/Blog/single/id/436.html




Monday, May 08, 2017

Is ASEAN Broken?




After 50 years of success on more modest goals, North Korea, South China Sea prove to be bridges too far

ASEAN Meet: Acceptance of South China Sea as a Chinese Lake
SD Pradhan, TIMES OF INDIA 031517ZMAY17

While earlier ASEAN had criticised the Chinese actions in the South China Sea particularly creation of artificial islands and their militarisation in strongest possible manner, this time the ASEAN summit avoided even flagging their concerns over the Chinese expansion in the contested South China Sea.
http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/ChanakyaCode/asean-meet-acceptance-of-south-china-sea-as-a-chinese-lake/


Asean, China need reality check on South China Sea issue
Tan Siew Mun, TODAY 032325ZMAY17

Asean’s track record on the disputed sea suggests national interests will always prevail, putting Asean’s viability as a community in serious doubt. What future does the regional organisation hold when the “region” is furthest from the minds of its leaders? 
Second, the South China Sea is telling about how China views Asean. China is guilty of using its enormous political and economic power to influence Asean through “friendly parties” within the regional organisation, but do not expect Beijing to offer any apologies soon. China’s constricting embrace will continue, resulting in the shrinking of Asean’s political-strategic space.
http://m.todayonline.com/world/asean-china-need-reality-check-s-china-sea-issue

ASEAN, irrelevant or relevant player on the global scene
Oliver Ward, ASEAN TODAY 060000ZMAY17

The South China Sea issue highlights ASEAN disunity, but it is not the root cause of it. The objective to create a liberal economic zone in Southeast Asia is faltering. Economic nationalism across the region has created obstacles to doing business. Domestic companies are still hampered by tariffs and labour mobility is still not encouraged across ASEAN… China represents a fast track to economic growth, not ASEAN. It was this vein of thought that led Hun Sen of Cambodia to preserve Cambodia’s economic interests by refusing to reject China’s South China Sea claim…The projected “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) investment looks set to increase Chinese political influence in the region. The stronger economic ties between China and individual ASEAN member states will only serve and heighten divisions.
https://www.aseantoday.com/2017/05/asean-irrelevant-or-relevant-player-on-the-global-scene/

Thank God for North Korea!
Munir Majid in THE DAILY STAR 060000ZMAY17

On the study to update the Asean Charter, they agreeably noted the direction from Ministers “for a precise and cautious approach taking into account the views and positions of all Member States.” Does this mean no change in the Asean Charter for the next five years? Ten years? 
Even on the tension in the Korean Peninsula, they did not make any specific suggestion on what could be done. Another attempt to revive the six-party talks aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear programme that first started in 2003? Play tough and kick North Korea out of the 27-member Asean Regional Forum which North Korea had joined in 2000?
http://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/columnists/comment/2017/05/06/thank-god-for-north-korea/


ASEAN Summit underscores dearth of leadership
Jun Endo in NIKKEI BUSINESS REVIEW 060000ZMAY17

ASEAN once boasted such opinion leaders as the late Indonesian President Suharto, who led the organization during its infancy. Singaporean founding father Lee Kuan Yew suggested that what was then a five-member regional community cooperate militarily in the face of the Soviet threat… How do current ASEAN leaders compare? One common thread is that they apparently devote much of their energies to domestic affairs while relegating foreign policy to the back seat.
http://asia.nikkei.com/Politics-Economy/International-Relations/ASEAN-summit-underscores-dearth-of-leadership?page=2











Monday, May 01, 2017

Trust Building Exercises


Jokowi wants to lay a foundation for trust during the transition to Asean's adoption of a South China Sea Code of Conduct http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/geopolitics/article/2091549/exclusive-widodos-peace-formula-south-china-sea


Korea Crisis becomes both tipping point and litmus test for Xi Jinping's foreign policy agenda https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/will-chairman-turn-china-contemplates-its-north-korea-policy


OBOR OJT: Whether China can build the institutional knowledge to make the New Silk Road run smoothly is an open question http://www.eurasianet.org/node/83396

Monday, April 24, 2017

Slings And Arrows

North Korea may now have a credible "second strike" capability, that could make "the prospect of a preemptive strike by the United States or South Korea less palatable, leaving open the prospect of nuclear retaliation." http://thediplomat.com/2017/04/north-koreas-2017-military-parade-was-a-big-deal-here-are-the-major-takeaways/ Check out our video: https://youtu.be/ZTaUSXta2cM


NORTH KOREA: TALKS WILL FAIL BECAUSE WE HAVE NOTHING THEY WANT
SAM ROGGEVEEN LOWY INTERPRETER 190113APRIL2017

Most North Korea analysts are agreed that what motivates Kim Jung Un above all is regime survival against foreign and domestic threats. Both Kim and his father before him decided that possessing nuclear weapons which could be delivered to an enemy target on ballistic missiles was vital for securing that goal, because the US would not dare attack North Korea if there was a chance Pyongyang could retaliate with nuclear weapons. America's interventions in Iraq and Libya have no doubt reinforced that lesson in Pyongyang. Nuclear weapons and their associated missile systems, then, are not primarily a form leverage to secure better economic terms for an eventual settlement with the US and South Korea. Nor are they a diplomatic tool to improve Pyongyang's standing, or a means to display defiance against the US and its allies. They are military weapons which are, in the regime's calculation, essential for securing their highest aim: the continuation of their rule.
https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/north-korea-talks-will-fail-because-we-have-nothing-they-want


PRESIDENT TSAI DODGES ANOTHER CROSS-STRAIT BULLET
J MICHAEL COLE TAIWAN SENTINEL 200000APRIL2017

…If, as we have reason to suspect, Zhang’s attempted defection — or more precisely, the decision by some Chinese authority to allow him to go to Taiwan to possibly defect — constituted an attempt to sabotage the prevailing stability, as granting Zhang asylum certainly would have, then turning him down was, all things considered, the proper, albeit arguably not the moral, thing to do. There is no doubt that Lee, whose sentence could be limited to a symbolic period of “community service,” would have suffered had the Tsai government granted Mr. Zhang his wish; by refusing to do so, President Tsai suffers a minor blow to her reputation among a segment of society (rights activists among them, as well as the deeper green camp which has already accused her of being to “soft” on China), but she avoids committing a much greater mistake that could both have hurt Mr. Lee’s chances of a quick release and have added momentum to a sequence of events that could have spiralled out of control and caused serious instability in the Strait, with only the radicals benefiting.
https://sentinel.tw/president-tsai-dodges-bullet/

THE GROWING STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE OF BANGLADESH TO CHINA
AVIA NAHREEN DAILY STAR 201624APRIL2017

The Chinese economy is heavily dependent on energy resources transported via the secure sea-lanes in the Indian Ocean... To consolidate influence in this critical trade route and at the same time shedding overdependence on it, China has been pledging investment to the littoral states around the Indian Ocean. It is due to this strategy, Bangladesh, owing to its geographic positioning in the Bay of Bengal, has been the recipient of investment pledges from China's deep pockets. Bangladesh is an important factor in the much touted 'string of pearls' theory, which explicates how China intends to exert more influence around the Malacca Strait and Indian Ocean through investment in development and infrastructural projects around Indian Ocean rim states.

To cut down over-reliance on the Strait of Malacca, China is already building oil pipelines from the Burmese port Kyakpiu to Kunming… If India ever, with US support, blocks the Malacca chokepoint through the Indian base in the Andaman Sea, it can have dire repercussions for the Chinese manufacturing base. Hence, it is important for China to gain more influence in the Indian Ocean region through bankrolling infrastructural investment in the coastal nations.
http://www.thedailystar.net/op-ed/the-growing-strategic-importance-bangladesh-china-1393957

MYANMAR AND MAJOR POWERS: SHIFTS IN TIES WITH CHINA, RUSSIA AND THE US
KAVI CHONGKITTAVORN THE NATION, THAILAND 212200APRIL2017

The cosying of the Myanmar-China friendship has been clearly manifested by the opening of their long-delayed oil pipeline, which will transport oil from the Bay of Bengal to China's Yunnan province, some 800km inland. With both the oil and gas pipelines now in operation, Myanmar has suddenly become a major connectivity route for China's Belt and Road Initiative - a showcase of President Xi Jinping's mega-plan in mainland South-east Asia. China's efforts elsewhere, especially in Laos and Thailand, are still at the early stage.

The quick operation of the oil pipeline also indicates that future Myanmar-China relations will be further strengthened. Both countries are confident that any remaining challenges posed by the controversial Myitsone Dam and the Letpadaung mine in Sagaing region will be resolved.
http://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/policy-shifts-in-myanmars-ties-with-major-powers


NEXT ROUND OF TRADE DEAL MUST NOT BE LIKE THE TPP
BILL ROSENBERG NEW ZEALAND HERALD 232100APRIL2017

The main point is this: public concerns are not primarily about trade in the conventional sense of importing and exporting goods… Recent research has shown how oversimplified most economists' and politicians' portrayal of trade has been. There are winners and losers, but in theory the winners could compensate the losers and still win. Unfortunately our systems of progressive taxation and social support have been seriously weakened and no longer do that sufficiently… Too frequently just the winners win, raising inequality and social tensions. That must be fixed to ensure public support.

But these agreements are no longer mainly about trade. It is misleading to talk about them as Free Trade Agreements. I'll call them international commerce agreements, and it is misleading to label public concerns as protectionism.
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11843705


Monday, April 17, 2017

Yet Another List of Important Matters in Asia North Korea is Distracting Everyone From

Sectarian schisms to decide Jakarta’s election?
Edward Aspinall, East Asia Forum 160000APRIL2017

When Indonesian electoral candidates make ethnic or religious appeals, they mostly adopt a benign approach: they emphasise their membership of a particular ethnic or religious group without denigrating others. By contrast, the campaign against Ahok has been relentlessly negative. 
At the grassroots, a legion of preachers and activists have striven to convince Muslim voters not only that Ahok insulted their religion, but also that it is forbidden to vote for a kafir — an unbeliever. Friday sermons at the city’s mosques have become important campaign arenas. Fevered rumours about floods of Chinese nationals illegally planning to vote for Ahok have swept through social media and been fanned by Anies’ backers. There has been a resurgence of racist denigration of ethnic Chinese of a sort not seen for years. 
Though Anies Baswedan — a Muslim intellectual who previously had cultivated a reputation as a pluralist — has not personally engaged in crude attacks on Ahok, he has instead run a dog-whistle campaign signalling his Muslim credentials and reaching out to extremist groups like the Islamic Defenders Front. An army of proxies is mobilising religious and ethnic appeals against Ahok on his behalf.
http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2017/04/16/sectarian-schisms-to-decide-jakartas-election/

If Hong Kong can’t become ‘Asia’s Israel’, future may rest on leading role in Greater Bay Area plan
Tammy Tam, South China Morning Post 161430APRIL2017

Now comes a new plan for Hong Kong – Leung is leading a major delegation later this week to six Pearl River Delta cities to learn more about the Greater Bay Area, an ambitious development plan announced by Premier Li Keqiang in March. Leung’s successor, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who has just received her official appointment from Beijing as the city’s next leader, was also reminded of the significance of this project by the premier in a face-to-face meeting. Some mainland academics have even described it as Hong Kong’s “last chance”.
http://www.scmp.com/comment/article/2088015/if-hong-kong-cant-become-asias-israel-future-may-rest-leading-role-greater


Re-imagining Taiwan: National rejuvenation or effort to counter China’s pressure tactics?
Rudroneel Ghosh, Times of India, 160605APRIL2017

Hearing local legislator Bi-khim Hsiao speak about re-imagining Taiwan over dinner, I am struck by the realisation that a fundamental shift is underway on this island state. Taiwan is trying to re-orient its economic profile to tackle the challenges of the 21st century. It seems the current Taiwanese government believes that a manufacturing-driven economy has run its course. Especially so since manufacturing in Taiwan has developed a deep connection with factories in China. And it is this connection that Beijing has been using as leverage to arm-twist Taipei on Cross-Taiwan Strait relations. 
In a nutshell, growth in Taiwanese manufacturing is heavily dependent on China. And Beijing can turn off that tap anytime it wants to put Taipei under pressure. A classic example of this is Beijing’s Red Supply Chain policy that will replace Taiwanese supply chains in China with local Chinese ones. Plus, there’s also the belief that manufacturing-driven growth in Taiwan has only helped a certain section of people, especially in the north and west of Taiwan. The current Taiwanese government wants to correct this imbalance.
http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/talkingturkey/re-imagining-taiwan-national-rejuvenation-or-effort-to-counter-chinas-pressure-tactics/


Thailand's Political Crisis Runs Deeper Than the Military Wants to Admit
Eugene Mark, The Diplomat, 110000APRIL2017

A demand for electoral democracy by the rural populace poses a significant threat to the ideological basis upon which the military elites can exist in the political realm. It essentially rejects the role of the King and his “few good men” in providing for the nation. The demand for electoral democracy was not new; it dates back at least to the student movement in the mid-1970s. However, a similar demand by the rural populace is more threatening as they constitute a majority of the Thai population. 
Another important thing to note is that this ideological crisis can get more severe over time, with the justification for the military’s authoritarian control at stake. The military’s authority rests on the justification that it is the “protector of the monarchy.” The success of this justification has so far depended heavily on the charisma and popularity of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. However, finding a like-for-like replacement for King Bhumibol after his passing was never realistic. In other words, the way in which King Bhumibol’s personality cult was formed set the military on the course of failure right from the start.
http://thediplomat.com/2017/04/thailands-political-crisis-runs-deeper-than-the-military-wants-to-admit/


Why a Political Settlement in Afghanistan Will Benefit Indo-US Relations
Sameer lalwani and Travis Wheeler, The Wire, 160000APRIL2017

The main benefit Delhi would derive from a political settlement in Afghanistan is that it would permit a renewed US focus on strategic relationship-building with India. As American policymakers view the rise of China as the primary challenge to stability in Asia, there are strong reasons for the US to further expand its defense ties with India. However, deepening strategic ties requires continuous attention, engagement, and hand-holding as evidenced by former secretary of defense Ash Carter’s numerous visits. Any such potential remains inhibited while the US is pouring political capital, resources, expertise, and of course, its military into Afghanistan. Significant advances in US-India ties (in 2005-06 and 2015-16) seem to coincide with less US concentration on Afghanistan. So long as the United States is committed to a “long war” in Afghanistan with thousands of US troops deployed in harms way, its South Asia policy will be run through a Kabul-first lens. 
Furthermore, the continuation of the conflict in Afghanistan is arguably problematic for India because it weakens American leverage over Pakistan. Part of this relates to continued dependence on Pakistan for the air and ground lines of communication into Afghanistan. In a post-settlement world, however, the US would possess greater leverage over Pakistan as it becomes less vulnerable to logistics dependencies. Although the US will still have some core interests with Pakistan, such as fostering responsible nuclear stewardship, a reconciliation deal allows for firmer American reaction to cross border terrorism that Indian leaders have so long sought.
https://thewire.in/124667/india-us-afghanistan-2/

Sunday, April 09, 2017

The Writing on the Wall




Duterte’s China gambit yet to pay dividends
JOEL ADRIANO IN ASIA TIMES 030642APRIL2017

Six months later, there is little indication that largesse, broken down to US$15 billion in investments and around US$9 billion in nearly interest-free concessional loans, has been disbursed or lifted the economy. Nor has Duterte’s bet that closer economic ties would mitigate bilateral strategic disputes, including in the South China Sea, paid off as China ramps up activities on disputed features close to the Philippine coastline.
http://www.atimes.com/article/dutertes-china-gambit-yet-pay-dividends/

Will America help the Philippines in Scarborough Shoal?
RICHARD HEYDARIAN IN MANILA BULLETIN 021400APRIL2017

...if and only if the Philippines puts up a fight and tries to prevent China from reclaiming the Scarborough Shoal can we expect potential intervention by America. Japan, which is extremely concerned about Chinese domination of the South China Sea, could also be involved in a hypothetical kinetic action scenario.
http://news.mb.com.ph/2017/04/02/will-america-help-the-philippines-in-scarborough-shoal/

The Taiwanese Dream Vs. China’s Reality
SHIHOKO GOTO IN THE GLOBALIST 030000APRIL2017

...Taiwan continues to be in a tough spot politically as well as economically precisely because of the One China policy... China is Taiwan’s single biggest trading partner, accounting for nearly 40% of Taiwan’s total exports... That makes Taiwan vulnerable to any retaliatory economic actions... it is hardly surprising that in campaigning for the presidency... Tsai vowed to decrease Taiwan’s economic dependence... Since assuming office in last May, however, Tsai has faced difficulties in meeting her campaign promises on the economic front.

MYANMAR: NLD Should Take By-election Results as a Wake-Up Call
EDITORIAL IN THE IRRAWADDY 040000APRIL2017

Many people stood behind the party hoping that their voices would not fall on deaf ears as they felt they had during the military regime. If their wishes continue to be ignored, it will be difficult for them to see a difference between the previous regime and the current government. People will not continue to support a government that ignores them.
https://www.irrawaddy.com/opinion/nld-take-election-results-wake-call.html

How would a President Moon Jae-in approach North Korea and China?
FRANCES KITT IN THE LOWY INTERPRETER 060606APRIL2017

In their turn, critics of the conservative approach point out that it has presided over a deterioration of the security environment and pushed North Korea to the status of de facto nuclear state. And in the meantime, the 2011 change in leadership in the North has made the task of engagement increasingly difficult. This highlights an important question; if Moon does push a pro-engagement policy with the North, will it be possible for him to gain traction with Kim Jong Un?

Monday, April 03, 2017

South Korea, A Nation in Reproach

The shame of a government laid bare: after the Sewol tragedy,
some say the fall of Park Geun Hye was only a matter of time

What South Korean President Park’s Political Demise Means for the Region’s Geopolitics 

Craig Mark in The Wire 040000APR17
Beyond her own personal humiliation, the ramifications of Park’s fall are already reverberating from domestic South Korean politics into the fraught geopolitics of Northeast Asia.
https://thewire.in/120366/south-korean-park-political-demise-regions-geopolitics/

‘Chaebol’ reform issue tops South Korean presidential race — again

HYUNJOO JIN, SE YOUNG LEE AND NICHOLA SAMINATHER, Reuters
The conglomerates known as “chaebol” have come under the reform buzz saw before, only to emerge bigger and stronger than ever... The question after the May 9 election is how deep will the reform drive go this time?
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/04/02/asia-pacific/politics-diplomacy-asia-pacific/chaebol-reform-issue-tops-south-korean-presidential-race/#.WOExFxIrJTY


The Korean Quandary

Martin Vengadesan in the Daily Star 020000APR17
What’s heartening about the South Korean situation is the application of the rule of law. The people of South Korea seem aware that aside from the volatile North, one of the greatest threats to the country fulfilling its vast potential is corruption. And nobody, it seems. is immune.
http://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/columnists/watching-the-world/2017/04/02/the-korean-quandary-both-seoul-and-pyongyang-are-grabbing-the-headlines-in-these-uneasy-unpredictabl/


Park scandal forcing rethink of cozy public-private ties

Kenichi Yamada in Nikkei Asian Review 312145MAR17
Chaebol now have an excuse to decline government invitations, according to presidential hopeful Ahn Cheol-soo, a former co-chief of the opposition People's Party. Park's case is an opportunity to break the cozy ties between government and big business, Ahn argues.
http://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Park-Geun-hye-scandal/Park-scandal-forcing-rethink-of-cozy-public-private-ties?page=2


Growing Pains of an Emerging Democratic Powerhouse

Max Boot in Commentary 310000MAR17
It is a shame that Park’s presidency has ended so ingloriously... problematic from the American perspective given that Park was more pro-American than her likely successor, Moon Jae-in, who has voiced skepticism about tough sanctions on North Korea and the deployment of THAAD... While perhaps tragic, her downfall is also a sign of South Korea’s growing maturity as a democracy.
https://www.commentarymagazine.com/foreign-policy/asia/south-korea-park-geun-hye-resolution-democratic/


ALSO THIS WEEK:

A Neo-Nationalist Crack in Abe's Strategy (Lowy Interpreter)
From String of Pearls to Head Vice: China Squeezes India (Swarajya)
The Ryohingya are Myanmar's Perpetual Other (East Asia Forum)

Monday, March 27, 2017

Everybody Hates Beijing, Episode 32,761


Voter dissatisfaction can be expressed many ways, even in a sham election.
Also, It Gets Worse

China doesn't hold the economic leverage over Australia that most people think
Rory Metcalf in the Australian Financial Review 270300MAR17

...the perception that China could deliberately wreak major economic harm can have an outsized effect on domestic interests, creating pressures for rapid political compromise. 
The risk is that Australia will over-react to possible future Chinese economic threats and self-censor on issues perceived to be problematic for Beijing. Succumbing to pressure won't protect Australia from further pressure, as it will signal that such pressure works. 
These are vulnerabilities Australia can do more to address. One way is to strengthen transparency around the channels China – and other countries – use to build influence in Australia. Public awareness also needs to be improved about the true diversity and depth of Australia's economic relationships and the prospect that our prosperity will not depend comprehensively on China.
http://www.afr.com/opinion/columnists/china-doesnt-hold-the-economic-leverage-over-australia-that-most-people-think-20170326-gv6ldu

Very cheap, shameful China
Park Moojong in the Korea Times 231650MAR17

Not only South Koreans but many people around the world must have been lost for words when about 4,000 Chinese tourists on board a cruise ship "refused" to disembark at the harbor of Busan of their "own free will" to protest Seoul's refusal to give into Chinese pressure to give up THAAD. 
What ridiculous behavior! Why did their cruise ship call at the South Korean port. As a result, about 80 Busan tour buses waiting for the "patriotic" Chinese tourists helplessly left the pier... 
These are examples of Chinese retaliatory measures, which absolutely show that China is not big, but small, compared to such countries as the Netherlands and Singapore, which are small, but big ...


Why are Chinese moving to Malaysia by the thousands?
Tashny Sukumaran and Coco Liu in the SCMP 250000MAR17

Malaysia is experiencing a “third wave” of Chinese migration – after a 15th century influx and a tin mining boom in the 19th century – these days that isn’t at all limited to just MM2H participants, but also includes foreign workers, some of whom are undocumented. A fair number of these migrant workers are usually employed in low-skilled sectors such as construction or factory lines. Recently, 127 Chinese nationals were rounded up by the Sarawak Immigration Department and 16 of them lacked valid travel documents. 
This influx of Chinese migration comes at a time when Malaysia’s often fraught race relations are more complicated than ever, with a general election – always a good time for race to be made a political football – looming. In 2015, a pro-Malay protest with anti-Chinese sentiments drew the ire of Ambassador Huang Huikang, who said China would not ignore “infringement on China’s national interests or violations of legal rights and interests of Chinese citizens and businesses”, reported the media.
http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/geopolitics/article/2080869/why-are-chinese-moving-malaysia-thousands


A Sea in Peril
Dan Southerland in Asia Times 251353MAR17

Chinese fishermen in search of valuable giant clams have destroyed vital coral reefs on a vast scale, although that practice now appears to be slowing. 
Rachael Bale of National Geographic, who has written extensively on the South China Sea, aptly summed up the situation early this year, saying that “While politicians argue over which country controls the region, the fishery … is on the brink of collapse.”
http://www.atimes.com/article/a-sea-in-peril/

New Delhi's CPEC Conundrum
Harsh Pant in Eurasia Review 240000MAR17

The advantages of joining China’s multi-billion dollar One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative are quite apparent and the economic logic is very compelling. But it remains far from evident how India can join the project without challenging the very foundations of its foreign policy. China’s objective in promoting the $46 billion CPEC, which links China’s Muslim dominated Xinjiang province to the Gwadar deep sea port in Pakistan, is clear and the rationale behind Beijing’s desire to pump in huge sums into a highly volatile Pakistani territory is also understandable. Beijing is not doing this from the goodness of its heart to promote regional economic cooperation. The challenges to the project are huge as underscored by its militarisation. Even as Pakistan has deployed more than 15,000 troops to protect the CPEC, and is raising a naval contingent for the protection of Gwadar, China will also be stationing part of its growing marine forces at Gwadar.
http://www.eurasiareview.com/24032017-new-delhis-cpec-conundrum-analysis/