Long time readers of mine will recognize this as the old “read board” posting I made for several years. It in no way represents an official view, but just the opinion of what one Asia-Pacific FAO and security analyst thought was interesting on any given day. Hopefully you’ll find it useful, too.
Japan voiced concern over China’s growing military muscle in a defense paper Sept. 10, as a right with Beijing continued over the arrest of a Chinese trawler captain in disputed waters.
Largely Muslim Turkey is split over a referendum on changes to the Constitution. Once again, critics warn of the secular state going Islamic. Prime Minister Erdogan needs to build trust among those who fear he and his religious party have a secret agenda.
Even in the best of times, Pakistan is a tenuous federation riven by regional, ethnic, sectarian and class rivalries. These are not the best of times. The South Asian nation is struggling to cope with cataclysmic floods that inundated every province, destroying infrastructure …
Hezbollah, Lebanon’s Iran-sponsored Shi’i Muslim terrorist organization, has established global networks in at least 40 countries. Its growing presence in South America is increasingly troublesome to U.S. policymakers, yet there are few experts on Hezbollah and fewer still on Hezbollah Latino America. Hezbollah’s operatives have infiltrated the Western Hemisphere from Canada to Argentina, and its activity is increasing, particularly in the lawless Tri-Border Area (TBA) of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay.
Preliminary peace talks between the Taliban and the United States have begun, with the Pakistan military and Saudi Arabia acting as go-betweens. An early concession from the US could be the release of Pakistanis detained at Guantanamo Bay. Much thornier issues include a continued US presence in northern Afghanistan and what to do with al-Qaeda, which is busy extending its reach.
Food price inflation in India has climbed to 11.5%, squeezing most of the population in a country that is increasingly unequal in terms of wealth, but in particular the more than 400 million poor. Meanwhile, the government ignores the realities of a grossly inefficient food network.
China loves to keep the pot boiling with countries it perceives as potential rivals, a fact no more evident than it is with its dealings with India in recent years. China’s recent decision to deny a visa to Indian Lt. General B. S. Jaswal, head of the Northern Command, is therefore just another example of its determination to find new issues to further complicate the already complex web of India-China differences. The game is being played at multiple levels with Jammu and Kashmir, which is seen by China as an area of ‘international dispute’ in the same way as Arunachal Pradesh. At first glance, it seems a relatively recent diplomatic gambit.
It’s been barely a month since Japan and China finally started discussing the details of jointly developing gas fields in the disputed waters of the East China Sea. After two years of waiting since an initial agreement was reached, probably the last thing the negotiators wanted to see were reports of a Chinese ship ramming two Japanese patrol boats near the Senkaku Islands, which are claimed by both countries. But that’s what happened on Tuesday. Apparently, an uncooperative Chinese fishing ship’s captain refused to be inspected or to leave the sea around the uninhabited islands. Not only that, he also took it upon himself to crash into the two Japan Coast Guard ships issuing the orders for good measure.
A reconsideration of traditionally skeptical attitudes about military transparency appears to be underway in China. Whereas Beijing formerly rejected Western calls for greater military transparency—arguing that transparency benefits the strong at the expense of the weak—a new calculus seems to be emerging that reflects China’s greater confidence in its own strength. As Chinese military capabilities have improved in both relative and absolute terms, the same logic that justified wariness of military transparency now recommends it as a useful tactic. Recent comments by Chinese officials and experts, along with some adjustments to military practice, suggest that greater transparency is now seen as an instrument capable of serving useful political and deterrent functions.
China’s military planners covet the ability to prevent U.S. and allied forces from intervening effectively in the event of a future Taiwan Strait crisis and to constrain the latter’s influence on China’s maritime periphery, which contains several disputed zones of core strategic importance to Beijing. In order to achieve the aforementioned goals, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been pursuing a two-level approach to military modernization, with consistent focus on increasingly formidable high-end ‘anti-access/area denial’ (A2/AD) capabilities to support major combat operations in China’s ‘Near Seas’ (Yellow, East, and South) and their approaches, and relatively low-intensity but gradually growing capabilities to influence strategic conditions further afield (e.g., in the Indian Ocean) in China’s favor.
In late August the Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun reported that the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) intend to stage their first-ever island defense exercises in December. The maneuvers will be held in concert with U.S. Navy forces to refine plans for recapturing the lightly protected Ryukyu Islands from a hostile—presumably Chinese—invading force (Yomiuri Shimbun, August 20). To date, the response from China has been rather muted considering the stakes it faces (Asia Times, August 31). As the first installment in this series on Japanese maritime strategy demonstrated, China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has been making efforts to break out of the first island chain and operate freely in the Western Pacific, either to threaten the east coast of Taiwan or for some other purpose. Occupying one or more of the Ryukyus offers one way for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to do so. Once ensconced within the island chain, PLA forces could drive off allied navies, keeping Tokyo and Washington from slamming the nautical gateway shut.
While Taiwan is stepping up calls for the United States to sell the island new F-16 jets and diesel submarines, there are signs that the Taiwanese military has been shoring up the island’s indigenously developed military capabilities. Recent pronouncements by a prominent Taiwanese legislator from the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) party revealed that the Hsiung Feng “Brave Wind” 2E surface-to-surface cruise missile system developed by the Chunghsan Institute of Science and Technology may be deployed around the end of 2010. According to KMT Legislator Lin Yu-fang, who chairs the Legislative Yuan’s National Defense Committee, the Wan Chien “Ten Thousand Swords” cluster bomb has also passed the air force’s “initial operational testing” and will eventually be employed to augment the combat capabilities of its Indigenous Defensive Fighter (IDF) (China Times, August 30; September 8; Liberty Times, September 8).
French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, received Russia’s defense and foreign affairs ministers, Anatoliy Serdyukov and Sergei Lavrov, at the Elysee Palace on September 7, capping a regular meeting of the Franco-Russian Council for Security Cooperation. This body brings together the two countries’ foreign and defense ministers and some military officials. The council’s September 7 meeting resolved, inter alia, to upgrade and regularize future military representation.
On September 7 in Paris, a regular session of the Franco-Russian Council for Security Cooperation turned into another French embarrassment over Russian procurement of Mistral-class warships. Russia is using bait-and-switch tactics. The defense and foreign affairs ministers, Anatoliy Serdyukov and Sergei Lavrov, officially informed their French counterparts and President Nicolas Sarkozy that Moscow is launching an international tender for the construction of two Mistral-analogue power-projection ships for the Russian navy. Shipyards from at least two other NATO countries and Russia are being invited to compete, alongside the French, for Moscow’s procurement order (Interfax, September 8, 9).