Monday, September 18, 2017

Bullet Trains and Bastions - #Japan and #India Come Together #Doklam

original image @ Global Times
The alliance between India and Japan offers economic and security benefits to both nations. Enough to have Beijing grousing

'How India and Japan rattled China with Act northeast policy' DailyO 17 Sept Beijing's goal in South Asia is economic hegemony via CPEC to offset home debt and bolster food and border security. That makes Japan's infrastructure push in India all the more upsetting (link)

'India, Japan and Africa' Economic Times 16 Sept The Asia Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) will provide the two nations with a means to counterbalance the Belt and Road Initiative while enhancing security ties. India provides "historical connections, maritime contiguity, and the large presence of an Indian diaspora." Japan provides capital and technology (link)

'Growing India, Japan ties irk China' Sunday Guardian 16 Sept 'Abe’s visit is a testimony to the fact China’s economic and military rise is bound to coalesce some of its neighbours against China. And this will happen regardless of the cultural impediments, ideological fixations and political hesitations in these countries. Japan as the only East Asian country with both the interest and the power to construct a regional balance of power to counter Chinese domination in the region, currently faces security challenges from both China and North Korea... Thus, any move that lends a hand to an increase in Japanese power is good for India' (link)

'The lesson from Doklam: Peace is the dividend of power' Hindustan Times 16 Sept 'India and Japan must together provide the fulcrum for a broader regional coalition towards a “pragmatic equation” with China to meet hegemonistic designs of any nation in the region' (link)

Monday, September 11, 2017

#Japan 's Loyal Opposition - Bad Timing and No Traction at the DPJ

The Democratic Party of Japan, intolerant of Renho's neophyte stumbles, crawls back to mediocrity. Seiji Maehara has already made stumbles of his own despite supposedly knowing better. The ship may already be sinking

"39% don't have high hopes for new Democratic Party leader Maehara: survey," Mainichi 4 Sept The DPJ's ideological split continues to hold it down in polls, despite Abe Cabinet's own dismal ratings (link)

"Maehara stumbles over selection of deputy as DP braces for snap election," Japan Times 6 Sept "Maehara’s about-face has put a question mark on his leadership ability as head of the DP, whose members often have failed to unite and have instead engaged in internal strife." And that was before Yamao blew up (link)

"Democratic Party can waste no time getting its act together," Asahi 6 Sept Maehara's penchant for poor judgment leaves his proteges vulnerable to backstabbing (link)

"Maehara must ensure DP is able to govern," Yomiuri 8 Sept A collection of insights on Maehara reveals more about Ishiba's designs on the LDP than anything else (link)

Meanwhile, the real skinny is at Tokyo On Fire:

Monday, September 04, 2017

"Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Grand Fenwick anymore" #DPRK

'North Korea: Is it time to accept Pyongyang will remain a nuclear threat forever?' A(ust)BC News 4Sep It would appear that North Korea has finally achieved the nuclear deterrent it has worked so long for. Now they have to deal with the consequences of raising the stakes (Link)

'Getting Tough on North Korea: Iran and Other Mirages' 38North 1 Sep Unlike Iran, North Korea had far less to lose in its brinksmanship with the West. Given the state of its economy and goals of its regime, it was a foregone conclusion that sanctions would be less of a deterrent (Link)

'Kim Jong Un's Theory of Nuclear Victory' Lowy Interpreter 29 August Kim's primary goal in developing a nuclear deterrent is regime survival. But is it possible, having seen the Trump administration's ineptitude and latent isolationism, that he is now looking for more? (Link)

'North Korea’s 6th Nuclear Test: Strong Tremor Felt in China' The Diplomat 3 Sep Beijing may want to do some sentiment analysis before they continue to drag their heels in dealing with North Korea (Link)

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Thomas Theorem Plays Out in #Myanmar #Rohingya #Genocide

So Much For That Other Religion of Peace

Forced into a desperate corner, the Rohingya in Rakhine state are fighting back. The violence and exodus of refugees threaten to draw Bangladesh into the conflict. Meanwhile, Yangon cries Jihad. "If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences"

"The suffering of the Rohingya people is a stain on humanity's conscience," The National, 27 August "The Rohingya people’s connection to Rakhine is older than Myanmar’s history as an independent republic." It's time they are recognized and the persecution stop. Both Myanmar and India are culpable in a tragedy that has the potential to spark a regional war (link)

"The differences blocking a solution to tensions in Rakhine State," Frontier Myanmar, 27 August From Yangon's view, events earlier this month reveal how Muslim resistance has gradually militarized. They maintain extremists are leveraging the crisis, while they have struggled with local factions to solve it. (link)

"Is this the final confrontation for the Rohingyas?," Dhaka Tribune, 27 August Scorched earth tactics by the Myanmar Army have precipitated a refugee crisis in Bandarban. The men from this exodus are increasingly filling the ranks of ARSA resistance (link)

"Nobody's People," Daily Star, 28 August What may be the last stand for the Rohingya has the potential to inspire Jihadist insurgencies throughout Southeast Asia. Beijing's coddling has encouraged Yangon's "mindless behavior" (link)

Monday, August 21, 2017

Australia's Foreign Policy: Pikers Take a Holiday #auspol #trump #southchinasea #dprk

China, North Korea, and not least America's slide into default mode is forcing Australia out of her shell

'Out of the “Slipstream” of Power? Australian Grand Strategy and the South China Sea Disputes,' ISDP Asia Paper, June China's activity in the South China Sea has changed the security dynamic in Australia's home region. Australia will have to spell out her interests, engage regional partners, and build a leadership role for herself. The alternative is a hedging cycle that will be emulated by neighbors and entrench the ongoing "Thucydides Trap" (link)

"Is Australia’s approach in the Pacific coming into focus (at last)?," Lowy Interpreter, 15 August Turnbull's "Step Change" may be taking shape: "stronger economic cooperation; stronger cooperation in security; and stronger people to people links." (link)

"North Korea, War and ANZUS," ASPI Strategist, 16 August Despite tensions, ANZUS is still "joined at the hip" with the US with regard the threat of North Korean attack. Australia, New Zealand need to articulate options short of preemptive kinetic action in the meantime (link)

"Down and Out Down Under: Australia’s Uneasy American Alliance," Foreign Affairs, Sep/Oct Issue The Lowy Institute's Executive Director outlines how the ongoing Trump Show and China's attempts to buy influence is forcing choices. The better choice is to step up and pull more weight while America works on herself (link)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Suddenly the #KraCanal is a thing again #OBOR #RCEP

Yes, we're using this graphic again. Boo Hoo

Beijing & Friends are weaving mixed signals about Fitzcarraldo's dream again. The repercussions of a possible Kra Canal also highlights how Beijing leverages Chinese overseas investments for soft power purposes even when their success is based on conflicting outcomes, such as with Malaysia's East Coast Rail Link and Sri Lanka's Colombo Port City. Most likely, however, the current talk is aimed mainly at bringing Malaysia and Singapore to heel 

"Belt & Road Not a Cash Machine," Global Times 9 August Ding Gang outlines the political and technical complexities of such a project, casting doubts on its sustainability. Yes, we quoted Global Times. Maybe the article gives some deniability to China with regard to current speculation, but it also spotlights the perception of OBOR as a gravy train by some overenthusiastic partners

"Ambitious Thai canal would link Pacific and Indian oceans," Nikkei Asian Review 10 August Despite an estimated $50 Billion cost and apparent political reluctance, this article breathlessly outlines the perceived gains. Project boosters, including retired Thai generals, Chinese academics, to make their case in late September

"Mind games at Doklam," Indian Express 11 August While mainly dealing with the Doklam/Sikkim standoff, article cites the likely empty threat of a Kra Canal as a means to pressure Singapore

"Beware China's great game," Free Malaysia Today 11 August Malaysia is about to get herself in hock to Beijing by building the East Coast Rail Link. If the Kra Canal were to actually become a thing all that debt will be for nothing


"The Kra Canal: Double Bypass," Lowy Interpreter 14 August David Brewster outlines the regional winners and losers if a canal ever actually gets built, with special attention on how it dovetails with Sri Lanka's maritime initiatives

Our previous coverage of the Kra Canal: 

Monday, August 07, 2017

#ASEAN Down But Not Yet Out in the #SouthChinaSea

With the Framework, Multilateralism gets thrown a bone. But the clock is ticking

"Asean Relevance in the Balance," Philippine Daily Inquirer, 4 August

After 15 years of trying to achieve a multilateral agreement on the South China Sea, Asean's Framework a "consolation prize" from China (link)

"China scores diplomatic coup in South China Sea row," Financial Express 6 August

Philippines, Laos, Cambodia led way in "watering down" statements of concern (link)

"Gritty Talks Ahead as China, Asean Agree to Avoid Mishaps in Disputed Sea," Voice of America 6 August

The devil is in the details, which have yet to be figured out (link)

"Water Wars: China Displays Diplomatic Skill and Military Might," Lawfare 6 August

As Asean figures out how to fill in the Framework, China will keep on building (link)

Monday, July 31, 2017

翻墙软件: Plugging Holes in the #GreatFirewall #Apple

Staying Busy (original photo: Xinhua)

The latest attempt by China to bring free communication over the internet to heel is the long-awaited ban on VPNs, and Apple is now taking heat for removing VPN apps from its Chinese iteration of the App Store. Given the nature of internet technology there will likely still be workarounds. As Russia follows suit, China's move may prove to be an unsettlingly popular precedent

"Making sense out of Apple's VPN pullout in China,"Khaleej Times 30 July

The ban is squarely aimed at individuals, and corporate institutions will still have access. "Killing that privilege off would be akin to giving a gut punch to business" (link)


Orders for offshore VPNs have skyrocketed. As the number of Chinese net users continues to grow, so will VPN use despite ban (link)

"Apple’s capitulation to China’s VPN crack-down will return to haunt it at home," TechCrunch 30 July

In complying with China's request to remove VPNs from its App Store Apple has handed Beijing and other despots a powerful precedent - possibly at the expense of market share in China and elsewhere as well (link)

"Apple sets course for China policy minefield,"Reuters Breakingviews 31 July

As the company builds a corporate presence while moving into the online service market in China, it faces the same hazards that ultimately pushed out Facebook and others (link)

"Apple's VPN Ban In China Is Not The End Of The World," China Tech News 31 July

Really, all you have to do is enter the certificate details yourself. Or maybe switch to Android (link)

Plus: ADVChina: VPN ban will drive foreigners from China

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Dutton Colossus #auspol

On the surface Malcolm Turnbull's reorganization of Australia's domestic security apparatus would appear to be a reaction to increasingly visible threats at home and abroad. This sort of consolidation has been proposed before, but has never gained traction until now. In reality it's more of a political play to keep both Left and Right on the back foot. The real changes may in fact be elsewhere, and at least one dramatic change isn't even part of the package

"The new Department of Home Affairs is unnecessary and seems to be more about politics than reform," The Conversation AU 18 July

The Home Affairs model goes against accountability norms established in wake of the 1978 Hilton bombing, weakens general legal oversight, and "risks diminishing the prospects of a clear connection between ministerial authority and ministerial responsibility."  Intelligence reforms are more sensible, but downplayed politically (link)

"UK Home Office a curious model for Malcolm Turnbull's Home Affairs Ministry," Sydney Morning Herald 19 July

The Home Office is the result of centuries of sausage-making compromise and contraction "where success constituted getting to the end of the week without being blamed for anything." Hardly a model for a country with a better chance of starting over (link)

"Why Has Malcolm Turnbull Made Peter Dutton The Most Powerful Minister In Australia?" JUNKEE 20 July

The Prime Minister was never enthusiastic about the idea. Neither are most of his ministers. But then he realized it's an effective way to hand an emerging rival a sop, rob a more established one (plus those further on the Right) of a platform, and prevent the Opposition from opposing him without appearing unpatriotic (link

"Intelligence review: design for a secure home," The Australian, 22 July

Far more effective reforms could be a result of this year's Independent Intelligence Review report, which was overshadowed by the Cabinet shuffle. The "increasing interconnection of international and domestic security risks" needs more than just political maneuvering (link)

Monday, July 17, 2017

#Indonesia & The Predicament of #Pancasila in Combating Extremism #Jokowi

"Jokowi's Diplomacy," Jakarta Post, 12 July

Widodo's growing global profile is accompanied by the emergence of an Indo-Pacific Theater of the War on Terror (link)

"Crackdown on hardline Islamists ‘repressive’ – rights activists," Asian Correspondent, 13 July

Ban on extremist groups draws ire of both conservative and rights organizations (link)

'Security minister fiercely defends decree allowing unilateral disbandment of radical organizations, saying it’s needed to save Indonesia," Coconuts Jakarta, 13 July

Wiranto invokes goals of Pancasila, Indonesia's unifying state ideology, to justify ban (link)

"Indonesia in number two on worldwide list of foreign Islamic State jihadists arrested in Turkey,", 14 July

Almost 10% of Daesh fighters detained in Turkey come from Indonesia, making the country the second biggest farm team for the group, next to Russia. Australia is worried (link)

"Indonesia’s new law to ban extreme groups may backfire: Experts," TODAY, 14 July

Conservative Islam is also one of the pillars of Pancasila and Indonesian society generally. As such, ban on extremist groups may spur a backlash (link)

"Jokowi's new decree is only partly about curbing Islamist groups," Crikey, 14 July

The ban also represents a move by Jokowi to turn the principles of Pancasila against the neo-Suhartoists who want to see him fall, and spurred Ahok protests (link)