The Hanoi defense talks: For permanent or short-term goals?

Discussion in 'West Asia & Africa' started by ajtr, Oct 12, 2010.

  1. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    The Hanoi defense talks: For permanent or short-term goals?

    Imanuddin Razak, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Tue, 10/12/2010 10:04 AM | Headlines A | A | A |
    Defense chiefs from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), along with eight dialogue partners — Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea, the United States — meet in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi today. Upon observing the list of participants, which represents a miniature of the Asia-Pacific region, the meeting will essentially discuss issues involving strategic defense and security affairs in one of the most dynamic regions in the world.
    A host of regional defense- and security-related problems are on the agenda, but the meeting — the first of such a regional defense meeting — will very likely be dominated by topics on China’s claims over disputed areas in South China Sea and assertiveness in the region despite assurance from the host country that the meeting would try to identify common interests and avoid becoming “a place for a war of words”.
    So concerned was the US with the continuing tension in the region that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told an ASEAN regional security forum in Vietnam in July that the peaceful resolution of disputes over the Spratlys and Paracel island groups was in the American national interest. Her statement, however, has angered Beijing which then accused Washington of interfering in an Asian regional issue.
    A number of incidents has heightened the tension in the region in the past weeks. On Sept. 8, a Chinese fishing boat captain was arrested after his boat collided with two Japanese patrol vessels near a chain of islands, called Diaoyu in China, and Senkaku in Japan. The islands, about 190 kilometers east of Taiwan, are controlled by Japan but are also claimed by Taiwan and China. The captain was released late last month.
    Also in September, on the 11th, a Vietnamese fishing trawler was seized and its nine sailors were arrested by Chinese authorities for fishing near the Paracel Islands, disputed by China and Vietnam. The Vietnamese authorities have asked for the unconditional release of the arrested sailors.
    The region is also prone to similar tension and potential disputes due to competing claims on the Spratlys Islands, which are claimed in whole or in part by four ASEAN members — Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei Darussalam and Vietnam — plus China and Taiwan; and on the Scarborough Shoal, claimed by the Philippines and China.
    Apart from the disputes in the greater Asia-Pacific region, territorial claims and disputes within ASEAN member countries also still threaten cohesion in the smaller Southeast Asian regional grouping. Indonesia, for instance, beside having border disputes with India, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and Australia, also has such disputes with Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines.
    A tense and unstable Asia Pacific is obviously unwanted, not only by its member countries, but also by others with commercial interests in the region, which is rich in fishing areas and believed to contain huge oil and natural gas deposits. The region is also home to one of the world’s busiest and important commercial sea lanes, a crucial conduit for oil and other resources fueling the regional and global economy.
    It is thus encouraging to see the initiatives taken to bring and settle all those territorial disputes through dialogue, such as the one starting in Hanoi today. But it is unreasonable to expect the Hanoi meeting be able to settle all those disputes overnight as there are still a lot of obstacles and problems that may hamper the process in the long run.
    There is still a lot of disagreement and difference to settle. Hopefully, member countries in the region, particularly the meeting participants, have the long-lasting energy to proceed with fruitful talks in the future. Right now, it is too early to expect the forum to be established as a permanent one, like the one the region already has in the form of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
    But in the long run it is not wrong to expect that such a timely regional defense forum develops into a permanent one, authorized to settle all those problems and differences, with binding commitments among its member countries.
  3. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    India for Asean alliance to counter ‘aggressive’ China

    In a calibrated assertion against China’s increasing military assertiveness, India will strengthen its cooperation with countries in the extended neighbourhood, especially in the ASEAN (Association for Southeast Asian Nations) region, without escalating tensions, said highly placed government

    India is getting closer to countries such as Japan, South Korea and Vietnam, which have tense relations with China. However, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said India aims that "the engagement quotient in the ties (with China) should go up and the confrontation quotient should come down."

    In Washington, India’s ambassador to the United States, Meera Shankar was far more direct. "We are somewhat concerned over — and it’s not directed towards India — increasing Chinese assertiveness in terms of Chinese behaviour vis-à-vis many issues on which it may have difference with its neighbouring countries,” she said.

    Answering questions after her talk on Indo-US relations at the George Washington University, Shankar also added that there were concerns about ‘capacities’ the Chinese were building. “There are concerns about transparency, intentions and the purposes for which these capacities are being built,” she said.

    India is keenly watching the unraveling power play in China, in which the army is becoming more assertive.

    "Much depends on the internal calculus in China. The role of People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the Chinese army is becoming more muscular, more assertive,” a senior government source said.

    As a counter, India is seeking to strengthen the cooperation with its neighbours—both extended as well as immediate (for instance, Indonesia, a key ASEAN member) — with huge resources and strong cultural synergies. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhyono will be the chief guest at next year’s Republic Day parade in Delhi. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be going to Malaysia this month and later to Vietnam for the East Asia summit and Japan for a bilateral summit.

    India on Wednesday announced a slew of measures to expand its defence ties with Vietnam, including joint training of armies and support to strengthen and upgrade the capabilities of the Vietnamese armed forces. Defence Minister AK Antony, who is in Hanoi, met Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and his Vietnamese counterpart General Phung Quang Thanh.

    China is actively engaged in Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan and Myanmar, fostering economic ties and pumping investments, to India’s discomfort.

    China’s recent actions on Kashmir have caused heartburn in Delhi. Though China has officially maintained that Kashmir should be resolved through a dialogue between India and Pakistan, its recent moves have virtually endorsed Pakistan’s claim on Kashmir.

    The issue of stapled visa to the residents of Jammu & Kashmir as well as Beijing aiding projects in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir are reflective of such a “mutated stance”, these sources said.

    These issues have resulted in India putting on hold all defence exchanges barring the border personnel meeting. The immediate provocation for that was Northern Army commander Let Gen B S Jaswal, whose jurisdiction includes Kashmir, not getting a visa to travel to China.

    India is also hopeful of Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehood Qureshi arriving in New Delhi for talks, on the invitation of SM Krishna to pick up the threads for talks from where they left off when both ministers met in Islamabad last July. Highly placed sources said that Qureshi citing human rights violation should be seen as attempts aimed
    at getting leverage from the recent incidents of violence in Kashmir.
  4. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    Japan to consider relaxing weapons export ban

    By Chico Harlan
    Washington Post Foreign Service
    Thursday, October 14, 2010; 3:46 PM
    TOKYO - Japan will consider relaxing its long-standing ban on weapons exports as the country explores ways to bolster its military capabilities, Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said in an interview Thursday.

    The move reflects concern among some Japanese leaders that Japan is falling behind in security and weapons technology, even amid potential threats from China and North Korea.

    A proposed change in the arms export ban would be likely to trigger widespread debate within Japan's government, as well as opposition from Prime Minister Naoto Kan. Many members of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan view the weapons policy as a pillar in the nation's pacifist defense posture.

    But signs are growing that Maehara and other officials might be seeking a more muscular approach to defense, even as Tokyo tightens its alliance with the United States. Maehara emphasized that reconsideration of the weapons export ban is not connected to a recent spat with China over disputed islands in the East China Sea. The newly appointed foreign minister mentioned, instead, Japan's desire to participate in multi-nation technology projects - something it cannot do under its "three principles" policy, which ban arms exports.

    "The trend in the world today is for various countries participating in joint development to bring together their technology in order to develop better equipment at a cheaper cost," Maehara said.

    In the interview with a reporter and editor from The Washington Post, Maehara also called on China to maintain a responsible presence in the region, adding that he remains "concerned" about its rapid military expansion.

    Japan has complained repeatedly about recent behavior by its neighbor, which remains its top trade partner. The latest territorial dispute flared after a Chinese trawler rammed two Japanese coast guard boats near the Senkaku Islands, known as the Diaoyu Islands to the Chinese. Raising pressure during the standoff, China restricted exports of rare earth elements necessary for the production of major Japanese products, such as batteries and hybrid cars.

    There is also the matter of differences regarding Iran. Japan withdrew from an oil-drilling project in Iran this month, bowing to U.S. pressure to impose sanctions over Tehran's nuclear development program. Since Japan's Inpex Corp. backed away from the Azadegan oil field project, however, China National Offshore Oil Co. has worked to fill the void.

    "That portion that Japan gave up was taken up by China," Maehara said.

    Japan's ban on weapons exports dates to 1967, when then-Prime Minister Eisaku Sato established the three principles, prohibiting arms deals with communist bloc countries, countries subject to embargo under U.N. resolutions and countries involved in international conflicts. Nine years later, those three principles were tightened into a near-absolute ban on weapons exports - though exceptions are made for one-on-one dealings with the United States.

    At a meeting in Hanoi this week, Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa expressed his desire for a major overhaul of the three principles. The perfect opportunity, he said, will come at the end of the year, when Japan reviews its national defense posture.

    "We should not just sit and watch domestic defense production bases and technological platforms deteriorate in a situation in which we are bound hand and foot," Kitazawa told reporters, according to the Mainichi Daily News.The move would be well received in Washington, which views an easing of the embargo as an opportunity for greater cooperation in joint projects with the United States and Europe.

    "Flexibility in Japan's approach would offer some greater opportunities in alliance cooperation, particularly things like ballistic missile defense," a senior U.S. defense official said Thursday, requesting anonymity so he could speak freely. "So obviously, any flexibility on Japan's part is something that would be welcomed."

    Earlier this year, an advisory panel to Kan argued that Japan's weapons ban caused problems for its defense industry and ultimately made Japan reliant on expensive weapons imports. But Kan said Tuesday that he does not want to revise the three principles.

    The defense debate reflects broader questions in Tokyo about how to deal with growing threats in the region. The Senkaku dispute, according to retired Japanese diplomat Hitoshi Tanaka, doubled as an "alarm bell" about China's strength and willingness to apply pressure.

    Regional concerns also extend to North Korea, which has signaled the rise of a third-generation leader, Kim Jong Eun, by recently appointing him to two high-level Workers' Party positions and feting him with a military parade.

    Tokyo, like Seoul and Washington, has concerns about instability during North Korea's hereditary succession process. Recent satellite images of the country's Yongbyon nuclear facility suggest construction or excavation activity. Maehara said it remains unknown whether North Korea is resuming nuclear activities at the site or merely trying to attract attention.

    Maehara noted that North Korea's previous transfer of power - the transition from Kim Il Sung to Kim Jong Il - coincided with heightened belligerence, including the bombing of a Korean Air flight and an attempt to assassinate South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan during a state visit to Rangoon. The 1983 attack missed Chun but killed 17 South Koreans.

    "I think it is important in this time - a very delicate time of power transition in North Korea - that we watch and carefully observe developments there," Maehara said.

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