Thursday, August 11, 2016

Sources of Conflict

A 2015 industrial accident in China sent benzene flowing down Songhua River and into the Amur River, a shared resource between China and Russia. (China Photos/Getty Images)
Stratfor looks at the Amur River valley as focus for future conflict between China and Russia:
The Amur River, which delineates a portion of the China-Russia border as it flows from the desolate reaches of Mongolia into the Strait of Tartary, does not often make the same lists as other storied rivers, such as the Nile, the Danube or the Mississippi. But it has played a vital role in the dynamic between two vast nations. The Amur, one of the longest undammed rivers in the world, is navigable along much of its length and serves as a transport artery for agricultural products and raw materials from the immense Siberian territories of Russia. 
As Moscow focuses east, maintaining its strategic detente with Beijing, there are opportunities for cooperation and trade between the nations, specifically in the areas of hydrocarbons and agriculture. But there is also the potential for conflict: The Chinese and Russian intentions for the river system fundamentally differ. Russia prizes the Amur for the security and transportation opportunities it provides, while China is more inclined to harness the river's power for energy and agriculture. Even though the two nations' relationship seems rosy, their history of conflict on the frontier suggests that the possibility of tensions flaring up again along the banks of the Amur is still very real.

KIM MIN-SEOK and  KANG JIN-KYU outline China's anxiety over THAAD deployment in Korea:
The presence of the U.S.-operated Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system in South Korea could thwart Beijing’s attempt to attack U.S. ships ferrying soldiers to the peninsula with long-range ballistic missiles, analysts say.  
In northeastern China, the People’s Liberation Army operates ballistic missile bases in Tonghua in Jilin Province, close to the North Korean border; Dengshahe in Liaoning Province; in Laiwu in Shantung Province; in Tangshan in Hebei Province; and in an area in close proximity to Beijing.  
The Thaad battery in South Korea could intercept long-range ballistic missiles in the air headed for U.S. bases in the Pacific to stop the U.S. from dispatching troops to the peninsula in case of a conflict. For a ballistic missile to hit Okinawa from China, it must fly over the Korean Peninsula, which will be covered by Thaad from Seongju County, North Gyeongsang, where the advanced missile defense system will be deployed by the end of next year. For a missile intended to hit U.S. bases in Guam, China could make it evade air space covered by Thaad by changing launch locations. DF-15s, with a maximum range of 900 kilometers, fall into the interception coverage of Thaad. “China has positioned its ballistic missiles toward the Korean Peninsula, Okinawa and Guam because of its commitment to intervene in times of a crisis on the peninsula stemming from the North’s collapse or provocation,” said a military official. “It is much more than a simple arms race with the U.S.” 

David Brewster identifies relations between China and India as the focal challenge of the Indo-Pacific Century - one Australia must meet head on:
Australia is now at the forefront of new debates about the concept of the Indo-Pacific as a useful mental map for understanding the changing dynamics in our part of the world. The Indo-Pacific focuses on the growing strategic and economic interactions right along the Asian littoral, from the Korean peninsula to the Persian Gulf, with Southeast Asia at its centre. The concept of the Indo-Pacific is not intended to replace the Asia Pacific, merely to emphasise that, at least for certain purposes, we need to be considering a broader geographic space and a broader set of interactions. The concept emphasises the growing interactions between the major East Asian powers and the burgeoning economies of Southern Asia (including but not limited to India) and the strategic implications of these interactions, particularly in the maritime realm. 
While the parameters and nomenclature of the Indo-Pacific are not yet settled, the concept is increasingly being overtaken by reality. Australia’s fast-growing strategic partnerships, with countries such as Japan and India, reflect these dynamics. India’s Act East policy, in which it is reaching out to new partners in the Pacific theatre, is the Indo-Pacific in action. China’s Maritime Silk Route initiative, in which it is building new maritime pathways across the Indian Ocean, is merely the Indo-Pacific with Chinese characteristics. But we are still playing catch up in terms of understanding the strategic implications of these developments. 
Two recent publications address different aspects of these growing Indo-Pacific interactions. In March 2016, the National Security College at The Australian National University hosted a conference of eminent experts and practitioners to discuss maritime security challenges and cooperation within the framework of the Indo-Pacific. An edited volume from this conference addresses several key areas of Indo-Pacific maritime security. Critically they examine new dimensions in Australia-Japan maritime security cooperation and the role of Japan in the Indian Ocean, managing maritime tensions in the East and South China seas, the potential for cooperation on transnational security issues, and emerging maritime security partnerships in the Indo-Pacific.

Finally, Andrew Seith on the semiotics of national identity in Myanmar:
In April, Aung San Suu Kyi told the Rangoon diplomatic corps that it does not matter whether her country is called Burma or Myanmar, as 'there is nothing in the constitution that says you must use any term in particular' (in fact, the constitution clearly states that the country is called the Republic of the Union of Myanmar). She told the assembled foreign officials that she personally preferred 'Burma' but would use 'Myanmar' from time to time, to make everyone 'feel comfortable'. 
As in previous cases when Australian policy on this issue has shifted, there has not been any public announcement, but it would appear that Canberra has quietly gone back to the 2012 rules. The 'Burma' country page on the DFAT website has been renamed the 'Myanmar' page. All other references to the country, in public speeches, media releases and data sheets now refer to 'Myanmar'. 
For example, when Foreign Minister Julie Bishop addressed Aung San Suu Kyi at the ASEAN meeting in Laos on 25 July 2016, she specifically referred to Myanmar, not Burma. Bishop again referred to Myanmar when announcing Australia's latest tranche of humanitarian assistance earlier this month. This followed discussions between her and the 'State Counsellor', as Aung San Suu Kyi is now called. 
Lest anyone think this has all been a storm in a tea cup, important only to those who operate in the rarified atmosphere of diplomatic protocol, it is worth bearing in mind that in June this year Aung San Suu Kyi instructed all Burmese officials to stop using the term 'Rohingyas' to refer to the hundreds of thousands of disenfranchised local residents that she prefers to call 'people who believe in Islam in Rakhine State'. 

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