Showing posts with label South East Asia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label South East Asia. Show all posts

21 August 2017

Doklam crisis echoes loudly in South and South-East Asia

Atul Aneja

Japan’s support to India irks China but countries — from Nepal to Philippines — keenly watching the subtle power shifts without taking sides.

From Nepal to the Philippines, countries in South and South-East Asia are keenly observing the Doklam crisis, wary of taking sides, but also keeping a close eye on subtle power shifts that the unfolding crisis embroiling China and India may reveal.

As expected, Pakistan has thrown its weight behind China, its “iron brother.” During a carefully choreographed visit to Islamabad by China’s Vice Premier, Wang Yang, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of Pakistan’s Independence, the Pakistani side backed all positions adopted by China, ranging from Doklam to the South China Sea (SCS), and anything that fell in-between.

Pak rues ‘Indian intrusions’ into China

The Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) reported that during talks with the visiting leader, Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain “expressed concern over the reported Indian incursions into the Chinese territory and said that Pakistan fully supports the stance of China on the issue.” He also lauded Beijing’s “adept handling of the issue and reiterated that Pakistan stands by China on the issues of Tibet, Sinkiang (Xinjiang) and South China Sea.”

On the other end of the spectrum, in the Asia-Pacific, Japan has become the first G-7 country to support India’s position on the Doklam issue. In New Delhi, Japan’s Ambassador to India Kenji Hiramatsu acknowledged that the Doklam area “is disputed between China and Bhutan,” countering Beijing’s claim that the stand-off was taking place on Chinese sovereign territory. His remarks drew a sharp rebuke from the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying, who asserted on Friday that she wanted to “remind him [the Japanese Ambassador to India] not to randomly make comments before clarifying relevant facts.”

22 July 2017

Southeast Asia Braces for the Post-Islamic State Era

By Bilveer Singh

The fall of ISIS will bring new threats to Southeast Asia. Is the region ready? 

When the self-proclaimed Islamic State was declared in June 2014, the primary concern in Southeast Asia was the security implications such a wannabe proto-state would have on the region. Once it became apparent that Southeast Asian fighters, especially from Malaysia and Indonesia, were “migrating” [hijrah] to Syria and Iraq, the fear was that this could complicate domestic politics through sectarianism with divisions within the Muslim community and between Muslims and non-Muslims. The gross brutalities perpetrated by the ultra-violent ISIS worsened fears of what the existence of such a cruel “regime” would mean for national security, either through large scale or “lone wolf” attacks.

Now, after more than 37 months of existence, Islamic State’s controlled territories and fighting forces have been severely degraded. With the loss of Mosul, it is only a matter of time before Raqqa will be recaptured. This would mean that the physical “caliphate” will disappear. Instead of being euphoric about the disappearance of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, however, new fears have risen in Southeast Asia. The defeat of ISIS in the Middle East will not signal the end of the threat of terrorism from extremist Islam. For Southeast Asia, there are three key issues that need addressing the day after the fall of ISIS.

Malabar 2017: Was China the elephant in the ocean?

By C Uday Bhaskar

A spectacular image of three carriers steaming abreast with 12 other naval ships following in formation marked the conclusion of Malabar 2017 on Monday (July 17). The week long, three-nation exercise that brought together the navies of India, USA and Japan was conducted in the Bay of Bengal extending into the Indian Ocean region (IOR). 

A total of 16 ships, two submarines and 95 aircraft participated and this included three carriers – the USS Nimitz, the world’s largest aircraft carrier ; the INS Vikramaditya – and a Japanese helicopter-carrier; and a US nuclear submarine. 

While inter-operability is at the core of such exercises, Malabar, which is in its 21st iteration, has enhanced India’s credibility in the Indian Ocean region as a nation that is committed to a collective effort to secure the traditional ‘global commons’ – the oceans of the world. This is in keeping with the vision outlined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his advocacy of SAGAR ( security and growth for all in the region) – which is also the Sanskrit word for oceans.

The China factor has repeatedly come up in the animated public discourse about Malabar and some invalid linkages have been made with the current India-China tension in the Doklam plateau of Bhutan. 

17 July 2017

** The Cost of Intervention



What North Korea lacks in sophistication it makes up for in guile. Its answer to any attack would go beyond conventional means to include its experienced commando force, cyberwarfare capability and submarine force, at the very least. Though North Korea has chemical weapons, they are probably no more effective than its air force and surface navy. Still, there's a psychological shock value attached to their use.

Pyongyang will do everything it can to impose a cost on any belligerent force. If the United States wishes to denuclearize North Korea, it will have to accept the consequences, as will South Korea and possibly even Japan. The United States would greatly prefer a diplomatic solution, but this has not worked well in the past. Even tougher sanctions imposed in March did little but harden Pyongyang's resolve. And in avoiding a messy, if short-lived conflict, the United States and South Korea may have set themselves up for future angst when Pyongyang unveils a strategic nuclear deterrent.

In addition to missiles equipped with high explosives, or possibly even nuclear devices, Pyongyang is known to have a significant stockpile of chemical warfare agents. There are also legitimate concerns about biological weapons development, but recent estimates indicate North Korea may have only samples of biological agents at the ready. This is a far cry from producing agents on a scale significant enough to be used offensively — huge batches have to be grown, maintained and eventually replaced, which is a monthslong cycle. Perhaps Pyongyang will have more biological weapons down the line, but that will not help it retaliate against the United States in the short term.

Why India Isn't Really 'Acting East' in Myanmar

By Jonathan Tai
As an ascendant economic and political power, India has long been eager to assert its influence on the global stage, particularly in neighboring Southeast Asia. India’s intentions for foreign engagement are best articulated in its so-called Act East policy, an ambitious effort to elevate Indian influence via economic and strategic links with the subregion.

Central to New Delhi’s strategic aims is the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar, a gateway to connecting India to the rest of the subregion. Yet despite steps toward implementing its policy, there seems to be little focused engagement with Myanmar. Indeed, India must begin to formulate a cohesive and coherent strategy to execute, particularly in light of China’s rapid progress on its Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), if it hopes to realize the fullest potential of its Act East policy.

The Look East policy, which preceded the Act East variant heard today, was first proposed and developed during the administration of Prime Minister Narasimha Rao. Despite this ambitious plan, subsequent efforts did not manifest into what many hoped to be a vigorous Indian foreign engagement, and ultimately failed to perform what some saw as the intended counterbalance to burgeoning Chinese influence within Southeast Asia.

15 July 2017

North Korea’s New ICBM


Q1: What did North Korea launch? 

A1: North Korea conducted a flight test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that it has designated the Hwasong-14. During the July 3 test, the Hwasong-14 traveled for around 40 minutes before landing in the Sea of Japan, inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone. The missile was launched on a highly lofted trajectory to an altitude of about 2,800 kilometers and traveled some 930 kilometers in distance. Had the same motor’s thrust been put to a range-maximizing flight path, the Hwasong-14 could have traveled as far as 7,000 kilometers, enough to reach Alaska and well in range of Guam. If fired in an eastward direction to take advantage of the rotation of the earth, the Hwasong-14 could potentially reach up to 8,000 kilometers, putting Hawaii at risk. The missile appears to employ at least two stages and operates on liquid fuel.

Q2: How significant is this event?

A2: This launch represents North Korea’s first-ever test of a true ICBM. An ICBM is classified as a ballistic missile that can deliver a warhead to a range of 5,500 kilometers or more. The definition was set during the Cold War, as 5,500 kilometers is approximately the minimum distance between contiguous Russian and U.S. territories.

3 July 2017

Ex-C.I.A. Chief Stirs War Debate in Australia. Also: How Much Is the Great Barrier Reef Worth?

By ADAM BAIDAW

The Breakdown aims to put a selection of Australia’s daily news into context. Today’s picks:

• Experts are debating David H. Petraeus’s warning that Australia will be dealing militarily with the Islamic State in Southeast Asia for decades.

• The Great Barrier Reef is worth tens of billions of dollars, but will attaching a big number help save it?

• Russell Crowe continues his war on weekly magazines.

Australia vs. Petraeus

David Petraeus, the retired American general who came to prominence running counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq and later served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, began an Australian debate on military intervention when he spoke at a Liberal Party gala in Sydney on Friday.

28 June 2017

** Crowded Waters in Southeast Asia

By Phillip Orchard

Cooperation among Southeast Asian states has never come easy, but the surge of Islamist militancy in the region is encouraging Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines to give it another try.

This week, the three countries formally launched trilateral patrols in the Sulu and Celebes seas — a vast expanse that has become a hub of piracy, militancy and smuggling. They have discussed the possibility since 2016, when the Abu Sayyaf, a jihadist group aligned with the Islamic State, conducted a string of kidnappings in the Sulu Archipelago. Whatever differences that may have impeded the patrols, however, were put aside during the siege of Marawi city, a provincial capital in the restive Philippine region of Mindanao.

Of course, the patrols alone will not rid the Philippines or its neighbors of jihadists. The same issues that have routinely hindered collective action throughout Southeast Asia will limit the scope of the program, if not undermine its effectiveness altogether. But the initiative does amount to a step toward regional integration, even as it proves the indispensability of the United States and its allies in Southeast Asia — playing directly into U.S. strategy in the Asia-Pacific.

26 June 2017

**Energy in Central Asia: Who Has What?


Each summer, BP releases a statistical review of world energy. The review — in its 66th year — is well regarded and draws on a variety of sources, giving one of the most comprehensive views of energy reserves and consumption around the world.

Buried amid the tables are Central Asia’s three energy-rich states: Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. As energy plays a central role in the economies of these states, it’s worth taking stock of where the last few tumultuous years have left them.

Of course, what happens in Central Asia’s energy markets is necessarily impacted by global trends. In the review’s intro, BP CEO Bob Dudley writes, “Global energy markets are in transition.” He points to Asia a major arena of growth, rather than “traditional markets” in the OECD. A focus on efficiency has led to stagnating consumption and “environmental needs and technological advances” are shifting consumption toward cleaner sources. For oil, 2016 was a “year of adjustment” and for gas, “global production was essentially flat” with the exception of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports.

How do these global trends look in Central Asia?

Let’s look at Kazakhstan first. The 2014 cratering of the oil market, a product of geopolitics far beyond the steppe, hit Kazakhstan particularly hard. Oil production in Kazakhstan fell for the third consecutive year (-1.4 percent from 2015 to 2016) to 1.672 million barrels per day. Nonetheless, Kazakhstan remains one of the top producers in the Europe and Eurasia region, behind Russia and Norway and ahead of Azerbaijan.

24 June 2017

*** THE BATTLE FOR MARAWI CITY


On what was to be her wedding day, Stephanie Villarosa ate chocolate-flavored rice porridge out of a styrofoam cup. Under normal circumstances—rings exchanged, fidelity promised, bride kissed—she and her family would have been feasting on lechón, roasted suckling pig, a delicacy in her fiancé’s hometown of Iligan City on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. Instead, Villarosa was huddled on an institutional plastic chair 38 km south of Iligan, inside Marawi City’s provincial government building. Outside, sniper fire crackled over the mosque-dotted hills to the east and military FA50 fighter jets thundered overhead. Wedding or no, the porridge was nourishing, and Villarosa was happy: “God is good. Today we survived.”

Survival has become a daily battle in Marawi, the capital of Mindanao’s Lanao del Sur province and whose mostly Muslim 200,000 population make the city the biggest Islamic community in what is otherwise an overwhelmingly Catholic country. Villarosa, a teacher in Marawi, was handing out wedding invitations when black-clad fighters of what the locals call Grupo ISIS swarmed the streets. She ran, hid, and took shelter in a nearby house with 38 other people. Outside, she heard, her workplace Dansalan College was burning, and Christians were being killed. “We rescued ourselves—no military,” says Villarosa. “We had to run, walk, crawl.” Seven of her colleagues, including the school’s principal, were unaccounted for, but, low on food and water, and with news that the military was set to bomb the area, Villarosa decided to get to the sanctuary of city hall. “It looked like a movie outside, it looked like The Walking Dead,” she says, referring to the post-apocalypse U.S. TV series.

12 June 2017

A WRONG TURN IN INDONESIA? ASIA IS WATCHING


In May, the governor of Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama – known more commonly as Ahok – was sentenced to two years’ jail for blaspheming against the Qur’an. Indonesian governors don’t often feature in global news, but Ahok’s case is exceptional, seen as a barometer for the state of Indonesia’s tolerance for religious and ethnic diversity. The world’s largest Muslim state has often prided itself on its pluralism, enshrined in the national motto Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (“unity in diversity”). But now, that unity is being challenged. Ahok’s fate has raised concerns beyond Indonesia’s shores about the use of religious tactics in future elections and the cohesiveness of Indonesia’s pluralism more broadly.

In late 2016, Islamic hardliners capitalized on Ahok’s double minority status as a Christian and ethnic Chinese to paint him as “anti-Muslim.” In October, Ahok had said his opponents were misusing the Qur’an to trick people into voting against a non-Muslim. His statements, edited to appear more provocative, went viral on social media. Hardliners fanned condemnation of his statements and mobilized mass protests in the capital (up to 200,000 at their peak in December) to call for his arrest. Not all of Ahok’s policies were popular but these tactics were seen as successful in transforming his double-digit lead into defeat during April’s gubernatorial elections. His prison sentence is also considered a political move, given prosecutors had asked only for probation.

4 June 2017

Buddhism Versus Islam: Clash Of Civilisations In South And South-East Asia?


Ananth Krishna

From Myanmar to Thailand and all the way to Sri Lanka, one of the oldest conflicts of Asia seems to be turning more violent by the day.

The Buddhist and the Islamic worlds seem to be increasingly in conflict in south and south-east Asia. In Myanmar and Sri Lanka, Buddhist nationalist organisations are in open conflict with Muslims; in Thailand, Islamist insurgency has resurrected itself in the Patani region; In Indonesia, tensions between the Muslim majority and Buddhist minority have surged.

The conflicts between the Muslims and Buddhists in the region represent a clear faultline between two cultures, as theorised in Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations. As Islamic invasions made their way towards the east, the repression and persecution that came in their wake ransacked Buddhist temples, destroyed the famous Nalanda University, as well as the Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya, Bihar. Other regions in this part of Asia like Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand were spared from this brute force of the Islamist invasions.

In Indonesia, Islam made its entry only in the 13th century through traders. The province of Aceh served as an entry point for Muslim traders, and through them, their religion slowly spread to the rest of the archipelago. By the beginning of the 19th century, there were only a few pockets of Buddhist or Hindu influence left in Indonesia.

Islamic State jihad explodes in Southeast Asia

By NOEL TARRAZONA

Islamic State-backed militants’ ongoing assault on Marawi City on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao heralds a bid by the radical extremist group to open a new Southeast Asian front in a spreading campaign of global jihad.

The Marawi battle has established the clear presence of other Southeast Asian nationals fighting side-by-side with the IS-aligned Filipino Maute Group, with confirmed deaths of Malaysian and Indonesian nationals in the battle zone. On the battle’s seventh day, 61 militants, 20 government soldiers and 17 civilians were reportedly killed. 

Philippine Solicitor General Jose Calida publicly announced that “what is happening in Mindanao is no longer a rebellion of citizens, but it has transmogrified into an invasion of foreign terrorists who heeded the clarion call of ISIS.”

Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs has claimed that Muhamad Ali Abdul Rahiman, a Singapore national, has been in Mindanao and was implicated in terror-related attacks across the region since the 1990s. Rahiman’s involvement in the current assault on Marawi is under investigation.

Tale Of The Tape: What Would North Korea Bring To The Fight? – Modern War Institute

by James King 

Once again tensions on the Korean Peninsula are extremely high. Rumors of war are spreading like wild fire. North Korea has been conducting nuclear and ballistic missile tests on a regular basis, thumbing its nose at the world. President Donald Trump said there was a risk of “major, major conflict” with North Korea during meetings with Chinese leaders in April. Very few times in the history of the two Koreas have sabers been rattled as hard.

For over sixty years both sides have prepared for the day when their two armies would clash once again. Throughout South Korea you can see pre-dug fighting positions with sector sketches laminated and posted so that any soldier could fall in on the position and be ready to fight. Obstacles which could block any north/south road are just waiting to be emplaced, and preplanned artillery positions are marked down to the meter just waiting for guns to arrive.

So what will American or South Korean soldiers see coming over the horizon as they stand ready in their defensive positions? What will they encounter as they move north? Historically, North Korea is one of the hardest places to get information about. Because of that, numbers of total pieces of military equipment can vary from one expert’s estimate to another’s across the internet. But they all generally agree on what type of equipment is out there. So what exactly would North Korean forces go to war with? And what are the particular advantages and disadvantages of this equipment set?

2 June 2017

Military Spending In Southeast Asia

 by Dan Steinbock

The conventional military narratives highlight aggregate expenditures and downplay per capita spending. Realities are more nuanced, both globally and in Southeast Asia.

The conventional narrative is that China has become assertive, while the West is ignoring its defense needs. According to SIPRI research, in the past decade military spending in China and Russia increased 118% and 87%, respectively, while US spending plunged almost 5%.

Yet, the list of top-10 military spenders includes the US ($611 billion), China ($215 billion), Russia ($69 billion), followed by Saudi Arabia, India, major EU economies, Japan and South Korea. Together, they account for three-fourths of the total. Washington spends more dollars a year on its military than the next seven biggest spenders combined - which penalizes US living standards and stability abroad.

Moreover, the US is escalating. The Trump administration is planning a huge Reagan-style rearmament and requesting $54 billion; an almost 10% increase in a single year - even as its public debt amounts to $20 trillion (105% of US GDP).

Influence by Default: Europe´s Impact on Military Security in East Asia

By Mathieu Duchâtel and Mark Bromley for European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR)

Summary 

The much-discussed notion of an ‘Asian arms race’ is an exaggeration. Instead, since no country can match Chinese military expenditure, several Asian states are acquiring asymmetric capabilities to try to prevent an excessive unbalance with China. 

Through arms exports, transfers of technology, and arms and dual-use export controls, Europe’s impact on Asian armaments trends and security is larger than is usually acknowledged. 

European states and firms are providing arms to several states as they seek to avoid such excessive unbalance with China. But this action is not guided by clear policy and is often driven by commercial interests and political constraints. 

The EU arms embargo on China has not prevented the Chinese arms industry from making rapid progress: it is now a major export competitor. Europe is contributing to this progress through transfers of dual-use items and intangible technology transfers. 

A more coherent approach will ensure Europe’s impact on Asia’s military balance is not destabilising and that export control gaps are closed. 

29 May 2017

The ARF Moves forward on Cybersecurity


The Wannacry virus that attacked computers around the world last week is one more reminder of the growing threat posed by vulnerabilities in cyberspace. Over 100,000 networks in over 150 countries were infected by the malware; the actual ransoms paid appear to have been limited, but the total cost of the attack – including, for example, the work hours lost – is not yet known. Experts believe that this is only the most recent in what will be a cascading series of attacks as information technologies burrow deeper into the fabric of daily life; security specialists already warn that the next malware attack is already insinuated into networks and is awaiting the signal to begin.

Cyber threats are climbing steadily up the list of Asia-Pacific security concerns. Experts reckon that cyber crime inflicted $81 billion in damage to the Asia Pacific region in 2015 and the number of such incidents is growing. Online radicalization and other content-related issues pose expanding threats to the region, challenging national narratives and in some cases undermining government legitimacy and credibility. The networks and technologies that are increasingly critical to the very functioning of societies are vulnerable and those vulnerabilities are being distributed as regional governments are more intimately connected and more deeply integrated in economic communities. One recent study concludes that an ASEAN digital revolution could propel the region into the top five digital economies in the world by 2025, adding as much as $1 trillion in regional GDP over a decade. This growth and prosperity are threatened by proliferating cyber threats.

28 May 2017

ISIS in East Asia: Strategic Shifts and Security Implications

By Jasminder Singh and Muhammad Haziq Bin Jani for S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS)

As the Philippines battles with militant groups in Mindanao, Daesh supporters have both rechristened and reimagined the latter area as “Wilayah Asia Timur.” This step, observe Jasminder Singh and Muhammad Haziq Jani, is part of a strategic shift by the murderous group in East Asia. The alteration deemphasizes controlling territory in favor of banditry and crime, all in the name of jihad.

As the Philippines battles with militant groups in Mindanao, ISIS supporters have reimagined the area as “Wilayah Asia Timur” as part of ISIS’ strategic shift in East Asia. ISIS terrorists in Southeast Asia may revert to crime and banditry as part of their so-called jihad.

Commentary

In June 2016, ISIS released a video that recognised the pledges of allegiance of various miltant groups in Mindanao. In that video Isnilon Hapilon, leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) was recognised as amir of the ISIS groups. It also alluded to the conglomeration of ISIS elements in the Philippines. The A’maaq News Agency, an ISIS mouthpiece acknowledged the presence of ten such groups in six locations throughout Mindanao. This would include the four featured in the video, ASG, the Maute Group (MG), and Katibah al-Muhajir, a cell consisting of migrants from Malaysia and Indonesia.

17 May 2017

Crowded and Complex: The Changing Geopolitics of the South Pacific

Joanne Wallis 

This report contends that Australia faces an increasingly crowded and complex geopolitical environment in the South Pacific region. While the most important external powers in this part of the world have traditionally been Australia, New Zealand, the US and France, a number of new powers are becoming increasingly active, most notably China, Russia, Indonesia, Japan and India. Furthermore, South Pacific states such as Papua New Guinea and Fiji are also emerging as local influencers in their own right. Due to the South Pacific’s proximity and strategic importance to Australia, the text’s author concludes that Canberra must respond to the ‘crowding’ of the region by focusing on it in a clear, consistent and sustained way.

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11 May 2017

Can ASEAN Save the Mekong River?

By Luke Hunt

Amid mounting concerns surrounding the degradation of the Mekong River, authorities from four of the countries responsible for the longest river in Southeast Asia met last week in Laos, raising hopes that solutions could be found for the 70 million people who rely on the Mekong for food.

It’s a task made all the more difficult since frustrated Western donors effectively abandoned the Mekong River Commission (MRC), forcing a restructure of the group controlled by two one-party states in Vietnam and Laos, a junta in Thailand, and democratic Cambodia.

That’s hardly a prescription for transparent management of such an important waterway, where priorities put first the Laos politicians and companies that stand to benefit from construction of nine dams across the mainstream of the Mekong River, and over 100 others elsewhere.