Tuesday, January 31, 2017

How Trump Could Blunder Into War With China – Analysis

                Soldiers with the People's Liberation Army at Shenyang training base in China

In his Jan. 13 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson made an extraordinary comment concerning China’s activities in the hotly disputed South China Sea. The United States, he said, must “send a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops,” adding that Beijing’s “access to the those islands is not going to be allowed.”

Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, repeated the threat on Jan. 24.

Sometimes it’s hard to sift the real from the magical in the Trump administration, and bombast appears to be the default strategy of the day. But people should be clear about what would happen if the U.S. actually tries to blockade China from supplying its forces constructing airfields and radar facilities on the Spratly and Paracel islands.

It would be an act of war.

While Beijing’s Foreign Ministry initially reacted cautiously to the comment, Chinese newspapers have been far less diplomatic. The nationalist Global Times warned of a “large-scale war” if the U.S. followed through on its threat, and the China Daily cautioned that a blockade could lead to a “devastating confrontation between China and the U.S.”

Independent observers agree. “It is very difficult to imagine the means by which the United States could prevent China from accessing these artificial islands without provoking some kind of confrontation,” says Rory Medcalf, head of Australia’s National Security College. And such a confrontation, says Carlyle Thayer of the University of New South Wales, “could quickly develop into an armed conflict.”

Last summer, China’s commander of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, Wu Shengli, told U.S. Admiral John Richardson that “we will never stop our construction on the Nansha Islands halfway.” Nansha is China’s name for the Spratlys. Two weeks later, Chang Wanquan, China’s Defense Minister, said Beijing is preparing for a “people’s war at sea.”

The Roots of China’s Anxiety

A certain amount of this is posturing by two powerful countries in competition for markets and influence, but Tillerson’s statement didn’t come out of the blue.

In fact, the U.S. is in the middle of a major military buildup — the Obama administration’s “Asia Pivot” in the Pacific. American bases in Okinawa, Japan, and Guam have been beefed up, and for the first time since World War II, U.S. Marines have been deployed in Australia. Last March, the U.S. sent B-2 nuclear-capable strategic stealth bombers to join them.

There is no question that China has been aggressive about claiming sovereignty over small islands and reefs in the South China Sea, even after the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague rejected Beijing’s claims. But if a military confrontation is to be avoided, it’s important to try to understand what’s behind China’s behavior.

The current crisis has its roots in a tense standoff between Beijing and Taiwan in late 1996. China was angered that Washington had granted a visa to Taiwan’s president, Lee Teng-hui, calling it a violation of the 1979 U.S. “one-China” policy that recognized Beijing and downgraded relations with Taiwan to “unofficial.”

Beijing responded to the visa uproar by firing missiles near a small Taiwan-controlled island and moving some military forces up to the mainland coast facing the island. However, there was never any danger that China would actually attack Taiwan. Even if it wanted to, it didn’t have the means to do so.

Instead of letting things cool off, however, the Clinton administration escalated the conflict and sent two aircraft carrier battle groups to the region, the USS Nimitz and USS Independence. The Nimitz and its escorts sailed through the Taiwan Straits between the island and the mainland, and there was nothing that China could do about it.

The carriers deeply alarmed Beijing, because the regions just north of Taiwan in the East China Sea and the Yellow Sea were the jumping off points for 19th and 20th century invasions by western colonialists and the Japanese.

The Straits crisis led to a radical remaking of China’s military, which had long relied on massive land forces. Instead, China adopted a strategy called “Area Denial” that would allow Beijing to control the waters surrounding its coast, in particular the East and South China seas. That not only required retooling of its armed forces — from land armies to naval and air power — it required a ring of bases that would keep potential enemies at arm’s length and also allow Chinese submarines to enter the Pacific and Indian oceans undetected.

Reaching from Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula in the north to the Malay Peninsula in the south, this so-called “first island chain” is Beijing’s primary defense line.

China is particularly vulnerable to a naval blockade. Some 80 percent of its energy supplies traverse the Indian Ocean and South China Sea, moving through narrow choke points like the Malacca Straits between Indonesia and Malaysia, the Bab al Mandab Straits controlling the Red Sea, and the Straits of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf.

All of those passages are controlled by the U.S. or countries like India and Indonesia with close ties to Washington.

In 2013, China claimed it had historic rights to the region and issued its now famous “nine-dash line” map that embraced the Paracels and Spratly island chains — and 85 percent of the South China Sea. It was this nine-dash line that the Hague tribunal rejected, because it found no historical basis for China’s claim, and because there were overlapping assertions by Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines.

There are, of course, economic considerations as well. The region is rich in oil, gas and fish, but the primary concern for China is security. The Chinese haven’t interfered with commercial ship traffic in the territory they claim, although they’ve applied on-again, off-again restrictions on fishing and energy explorations. China initially prevented Filipino fishermen from exploiting some reefs, and then allowed it. It’s been more aggressive with Vietnam in the Paracels.

Stirring the Pot

Rather than trying to assuage China’s paranoia, the U.S. made things worse by adopting a military strategy to checkmate “Area Denial.”

Called “Air/Sea Battle” — later renamed “Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons” — Air/Sea Battle envisions attacking China’s navy, air force, radar facilities, and command centers with air and naval power. Missiles would be used to take out targets deep into Chinese territory.

China’s recent seizure of a U.S. underwater drone off the Philippines is part of an ongoing chess game in the region. The drone was almost certainly mapping sea floor bottoms and collecting data that would allow the U.S. to track Chinese submarines, including those armed with nuclear missiles. While the heist was a provocative thing to do — it was seized right under the nose of an unarmed U.S. Navy ship — it’s a reflection of how nervous the Chinese are about their vulnerability to Air/Sea Battle.

China’s leaders “have good reason to worry about this emerging U.S. naval strategy [use of undersea drones] against China in East Asia,” Li Mingjiang, a China expert at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, told the Financial Times. “If this strategy becomes reality, it could be quite detrimental to China’s national security.”

Washington charges that the Chinese are playing the bully with small countries like Vietnam and the Philippines, and there is some truth to that charge. China has been throwing its weight around with several nations in Southeast Asia. But it also true that the Chinese have a lot of evidence that the Americans are gunning for them.

The U.S. has some 400 military bases surrounding China and is deploying anti-ballistic missiles in South Korea and Japan, ostensibly to guard against North Korean nuclear weapons. But the interceptors could also down Chinese missiles, posing a threat to Beijing’s nuclear deterrence.

While Air/Sea Battle does not envision using nuclear weapons, it could still lead to a nuclear war. It would be very difficult to figure out whether missiles were targeting command centers or China’s nukes. Under the stricture “use them or lose them” the Chinese might fear their missiles were endangered and launch them.

The last thing one wants to do with a nuclear-armed power is make it guess.

Superpower Conflict

The Trump administration has opened a broad front on China, questioning the “one China” policy, accusing Beijing of being in cahoots with Islamic terrorists, and threatening a trade war.

The first would upend more than 30 years of diplomacy, the second is bizarre — if anything, China is overly aggressive in suppressing terrorism in its western Xinjiang Province — and the third makes no sense.

China is the U.S.’s major trading partner and holds $1.24 trillion in U.S. treasury bonds. While Trump charges that the Chinese have hollowed out the American economy by undermining its industrial base with cheap labor and goods, China didn’t force Apple or General Motors to pull up stakes and decamp elsewhere. Capital goes where wages are low and unions are weak.

A trade war would hurt China, but it would also hurt the U.S. and the global economy as well.

When Trump says he wants to make America great again, what he really means is that he wants to go back to that post-World War II period when the U.S. dominated much of the globe with a combination of economic strength and military power. But that era is gone, and dreams of a unipolar world run by Washington are a hallucination.

According to the CIA, “by 2030 Asia will have surpassed North America and Europe combined in terms of global power based on GDP, population size, military spending and technological investments.” By 2025, two-thirds of the world will live in Asia, 7 percent in Europe and 5 percent in the U.S. Those are the demographics of eclipse.

If Trump starts a trade war, he will find little support among America’s allies. China is the number one trading partner for Japan, Australia, South Korea, Vietnam, and India, and the third largest for Indonesia and the Philippines. Over the past year, a number of countries like Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines have also distanced themselves from Washington and moved closer to China. When President Obama tried to get U.S. allies not to sign on to China’s new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, they ignored him.

But the decline of U.S. influence has a dangerous side. Washington may not be able to dictate the world’s economy, but it has immense military power. Chinese military expert Yang Chengjun says “China does not stir up troubles, but we are not afraid of them when they come.”

They should be. For all its modernization, China is no match for the U.S. However, defeating China is far beyond Washington’s capacity. The only wars the U.S. has “won” since 1945 are Grenada and Panama.

Nonetheless, such a clash would be catastrophic. It would torpedo global trade, inflict trillions of dollars of damage on each side, and the odds are distressingly high that the war could go nuclear.

U.S. allies in the region should demand that the Trump administration back off any consideration of a blockade. Australia has already told Washington it will not take part in any such action. The U.S. should also do more than rename Air/Sea Battle — it should junk the entire strategy. The East and South China seas are not national security issues for the U.S., but they are for China.

And China should realize that, while it has the right to security, trotting out ancient dynastic maps to lay claim to vast areas bordering scores of countries does nothing but alienate its neighbors and give the U.S. an excuse to interfere in affairs thousands of miles from its own territory.

*Foreign Policy In Focus columnist Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com and middleempireseries.wordpress.com

DoD photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, U.S. Air Force.

Getting organised on Asian drug trade

Australian police working with Chinese authorities in Sydney seized 720 litres of liquid methamphetamine in February 2016. It was the largest bust on record, with a ‘street’ value of A$900 million (US$673.97 million). The methamphetamine was originally shipped from southern China concealed in thousands of gel pads inserted into push-up bras and art supplies.

The immense demand for amphetamine-type stimulants (or ATS, such as crystal methamphetamine and ecstasy), opiates and new psychoactive substances among the increasingly wealthy urban residents of East Asia — and beyond — has revitalised organised crime in the region. In turn, Asian crime entrepreneurs engage in an industrial global business exporting precursor chemicals and importing opiates from the golden triangle or Afghanistan and cocaine via Africa from South America, often for re-export to the US and valuable markets in Europe, and Australia.

Bloated with cash and often enjoying a degree of state protection, organised crime groups constantly seek new markets — legitimate or illicit. By taking advantage of rapidly evolving forms of connectivity and regional trade, and mimicking best business practice while using violence strategically, these predatory groups can achieve impressive access to power.

Responding to these challenges are a handful of capable law enforcement agencies; a patchwork of cross-border mutual legal assistance agreements; and a fledgeling, fragile regional security response from ASEAN, APEC and other multilateral fora.

The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimated that crime groups earned about US$90–100 billion per annum from illicit sources. Narcotic production and trafficking in precursors top the list, along with all kinds of fake products, illegal wildlife and timber trading.

Cross-border movement of illicit products into and out of Southeast Asia, often via India and China, has intensified in recent years. This is in part due to free-trade agreements between ASEAN and these countries, as well as the massive upgrade of the region’s infrastructure and connectivity now underway.

Yet a recent UNODC assessment noted that, despite the existence of ‘thriving networks of cross-border criminals’, a ‘fully operational framework on tackling cross-border crime does not exist’.

Former ethnic or linguistic distinctions once associated with traditional organised crime groups are now blurred. Major Chinese and Japanese crime groups are increasingly connected with West African, Iranian and South Asian crime groups. Connections between Chinese organised crime and Mexican crime groups such as the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels have also been reported. This reflects the impact of the globalisation of trade and the increasing wealth of China, India and the region.

Although common in the 20th century, fatal acts of violence are increasingly rare in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Japan and many parts of the Chinese mainland. Yet strategic violence still plays a crucial role in enforcing contracts in illicit markets and establishing distribution markets. Triads have merged with or rent local protection services in China and Southeast Asia. These looser macro-criminal networks are often referred to as ‘red-black’ in Chinese, a euphemism for collaboration between the criminal world and corrupt elements of the state. This occurs especially frequently at the county level in China or at the sub-state level in the Golden Triangle, as the tri-state confluence of Myanmar, Laos and China is known.

The Triangle is now also known for the mass production of ATS, built on the older tradition of opium production and heroin refinement. The area’s drug production genealogy goes back to the displaced Shanghai ‘Green Gang’ chemists of the 1950s and its militarisation by detached nationalist warlord armies, the consequences of wars in Indochina and ethnic conflict within the Burmese state.

Ecstacy, ice pills and heroin are transported from production areas in northeast Myanmar in modest quantities of a kilogram or less — under the prevailing legal threshold for trafficking — to markets in Bangkok. Larger amounts may be diverted via Cambodia for transhipment to highly profitable overseas markets like Australia.

Central to the suppression of organised criminal activity will be the action of the ASEAN+3 group. Chinese-led restrictions on the export of precursor chemicals, effective from late 2015, should be significant if followed by India and ASEAN.

Worthy but nonsensical aspirations and plans for a ‘drug-free’ region by 2015, set out at the 2010 ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime, signal relatively weak integration with regard to non-traditional security problems. Alternative policies that seek to regulate recreational drugs and the pursuit of harm-reduction strategies would help to undercut the profits of criminal groups, but at the same time greater recognition is needed of the contribution of consumer choice on the demand side. Policies that reorient consumer choices to undercut the goods and services organised crime provides are also needed.

While attempts to curtail demand by resorting to extrajudicial police killings may have popular appeal, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drug traffickers may ultimately serve to consolidate crime groups, raise protection costs and temporarily displace activities to less hostile locations.

Since Duterte took over as president in July, 2086 drug crime suspects had been killed during police operations while ‘vigilantes’ had killed 3841 as of 12 December. It is unlikely that Australian law-enforcement agencies will be keen to involve themselves in a bloody campaign that may encourage summary executions and undermine the rule of law.

Continued support for the independent assessment of emerging threats in both the traditional and non-traditional security spheres remains crucial to developing capabilities and to any hope of reducing the impact of transnational crime activities on Australia. Countries like Australia must keep in mind that the action is not just ‘over there’. It depends on reducing the demand for illicit products and the predatory actions of criminal entrepreneurs, at home and abroad.

Roderic Broadhurst is a Professor of Criminology at the Research School of Social Science and a Fellow at the Research School of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University.

An extended version of this article appeared in the most recent edition of the East Asia Forum Quarterly, ‘Managing China’.


Bribes from Rolls-Royce to Garuda chief rock Indonesia

Bribes from Rolls-Royce to Garuda chief rock Indonesia

The naming of Garuda Indonesia’s former chief, Emirsyah Satar, by the Corruption Eradication Commission as a bribery suspect in the purchase of Rolls-Royce aircraft engines is just the latest chapter of a long string of such cases stretching across Asia and across generations.

Indeed, the British aerospace giant, the world’s third-largest engine manufacturer after General Electric and CFM International, has been implicated in allegations of bribery not just from Garuda but the AirAsia Group, China Eastern Airlines and Thai Airways for paying bribes over a 24-year period from 1989 to 2013.

Satar’s involvement is disheartening. He was appointed president director of Garuda in 2005 and resigned from the top post at the national flag carrier in December 2014, three months before he was due to end his term. The airline lost US$22 million between 2006 and 2012 before he and his management team began to turn it around.

Satar has been accused of accepting at least €1.2 million (US$1.28 million) and $180,000 as well as “other things” allegedly valued at US$2 million through a middleman named Sutikno Soedarjo, who has also been named a suspect.  Some reports speculate that as much as US$20 million was paid in bribes to Indonesian officials. He has denied the charge.

As president director, he had played a major role in Garuda’s recovery.  The airline for several years was banned from landing in European Union airports because of its disastrous safety record, as were all other Indonesian carriers, and because of Indonesia’s lax air travel safety supervision. The Indonesian flag carrier was allowed to fly to Europe in 2016 and expects to start flights to the United States in 2017.  It gained a five-star rating from aviation research company Skytrax in 2014.

Rolls-Royce has owned up to paying illegal commissions in both Indonesia and China. Aircraft purchases bristle with handles to clutch for those looking for illegal money. Airplanes mostly are not bought off the shelf. They are a huge collection of individual systems, each bought from a different contractor and each presenting a chance to get rich. With CTE International, General Electric, United Technologies and Rolls-Royce, for instance, looking for lucrative engine contracts, each is seeking to outdo the other. Backhanders are a way of getting ahead of the game.

That goes for the avionics, the engines, the hulls themselves and, in the case of military aircraft, the guns, the rockets, targeting systems and other features.

In the 1960s, for instance, Lockheed Aircraft was named for bribing officials in Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Saudi Arabia and Japan, where it brought down the government of Prime Minister Kakui Tanaka and ultimately resulted in the passage in the United States of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it illegal for companies and their officers to buy influence with foreign governments via personal payments or rewards.

There were spectacular cases in Malaysia and Thailand in the 1980s. Thailand, in fact, has set up a special task force to probe engine procurements in the wake of Rolls Royce’s apology and admission to having paid bribes in several countries in addition to Indonesia.

Before naming Satar a suspect, the KPK questioned him and his wife late last month. Satar’s assets doubled in three years from Rp19.9 billion in 2010 to Rp48.7 billion in 2013.

The KPK has also imposed a six-month travel ban on the two suspects in the case as well as three other witnesses — former president director at Garuda Maintenance Facilities Hadinoto Soedigno, former Garuda vice president for asset management Agus Wahyudo and businesswoman Sallyawati Rahardja.

Soetikno is the owner of a Singapore-based company, which was allegedly used as a broker to orchestrate the bribe from the British engineering giant, which produces Trent 700 engines for Airbus A330 aircraft.

The investigation into the high-profile case, which involved cooperation between the KPK, the United Kingdom’s (UK) Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and Singapore’s Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), has also sent signals that the commission is flexing its muscles over multinational white-collar corruption.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has hinted that more officials from Garuda Indonesia could be involved in a transnational bribery case that has implicated former president director Emirsyah Satar.

“Emirsyah’s alleged corrupt practices are believed to have involved other actors,” KPK spokesperson Febri Diansyah said Jan. 21.

Febri said the antigraft body would start summoning witnesses for questioning at the end of January, as its investigators were still studying evidence they had recently seized at five locations.

“This is a warning for those who think that it is safe to engage in bribery outside our jurisdiction, like in Singapore,” Febri told a press conference.

The Garuda case is the third transnational graft case in the KPK’s history.

The first centered around a bribery case at state oil and gas firm PT Pertamina to secure a 2004-2005 fuel additive contract worth $4 million for UK-based fuel additives manufacturer Innospec Limited. In the case, Jakarta sent former Pertamina executive Suroso Atmo Martoyo and two brokers to prison, while a British court sentenced four Innospec executives. The joint investigation also involved authorities from Singapore in relation to a bank used by Suroso.

The KPK also uncovered the bribery case of Izedrik Emir Moeis, a politician from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), now the ruling party, who received money from France-based infrastructure giant Alstom SA to pave the way for the firm to obtain a $268 million coal-fired power plant in Tarahan, Lampung, in 2004.

The KPK investigation comes only days after Rolls-Royce agreed to pay £497 million to the UK’s SFO after the UK High Court approved the out-of-court settlement that will prevent the firm from being prosecuted by investigators in the UK. Individual executives, however, can still be charged.

A study by Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) in 2016 found that imprisonment for graft convicts are on the averaged of only 2.2 years. With corruption convicts entitled to remission on several national holidays such as Christmas, Idul Fitri, Independence Day, National Heroes Day, etc. simply because of “good behavior”, they are able to regain freedom even faster.

Based on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2016, Indonesia is ranked 90 among 176 countries in its efforts to fight corruption, which is worse than the 2015 index, where Indonesia’s rank rose to 88th from 107th in the previous year.

Asia Times

Monday, January 30, 2017

Discovered Multi-Drug Resistant Bacteria In China

Discovered Multi-Drug Resistant Bacteria In China

The mcr-1 gene–a gene that makes bacteria resistant to colistin, an antibiotic of last resort, and that is transferrable between bacteria–has been found in a wide variety of strains of Escherichia coli in China following widespread use of colistin in agriculture.

As China prepares to introduce the drug for the first time in human medicine, two new studies published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases provide evidence of how widely the mcr-1 gene has spread to bacteria in clinical settings, including to a minority already resistant to the carbapenem class of antibiotics, and highlight the need for caution and careful prescribing when the country introduces colistin.

Infections that are resistant to carbapenems are already common in many countries and in these cases only a small number of antibiotics are effective, including colistin. In 2015, the mcr-1 gene was discovered in China and subsequently identified in other countries including Denmark, Germany, Vietnam, Spain, and the USA among others [1], raising fears that bacteria may acquire combined colistin and carbapenem resistance, making them multi-drug resistant.

Two studies published Friday come at an important time in China. Colistin, which has been used extensively in farming in China since the 1980s, was recently banned for use in agriculture, and will soon be introduced in clinical use for the first time.

The first study, led by Professor Timothy Walsh at Cardiff University (UK) and Professor Jianzhong Shen at the China Agricultural University, looked at the prevalence of bacteria carrying the mcr-1 resistance gene in human infections in two hospitals in Zheijang and Guangdong provinces across 8 years. Among more than 17000 bacterial isolates associated with infection, mcr-1 was detected in 76/5332 samples of E coli and 13/348 samples of Klebsiella pneumoniae. The study is the first to look at risk factors for clinical mcr-1 infection and found that people who had used antibiotics (particularly carbapenems) before hospitalisation were more likely to carry bacteria with the mcr-1 resistance gene. Among 146 isolates of mcr-1-positive E coli identified, only five were also carbapenem resistant.

“The emergence of mcr-1 heralds the breach of the last group of antibiotics, such as colistin. The withdrawal of the drug from agricultural use, and its introduction in the clinic might reduce colistin resistance rates in the community, and increase resistance in hospitals where they may be harder to treat or spread more easily. Our study finds that there are significant risk factors for the spread of mcr-1 infections, beyond just rural living and diet. The spread of colistin resistant bacteria will likely worsen when the drug is introduced in humans,” said Professor Tim Walsh [2].

The second study, led by researchers at Zhejiang University (China), tested samples from over 2000 bloodstream infections at 28 hospitals in China. Of the 1495 E coli samples, 20 were mcr-1 positive, one of which was also carbapenem resistant. Patients with mcr-1-positive infections were all treated successfully with other antibiotics.

“The most troubling problem for clinicians would be the transfer of colistin resistance to a bacterium which is already carbapenem resistant, making it multi-drug resistance. This does not appear to have happened to any great extent in clinical isolates, but the situation should be monitored carefully as the country prepares to introduce colistin for use in humans,” said Professor Yunsong Yu, Zhejiang University [2].

Discussing the findings from both papers in a linked Comment, Professor David Paterson, University of Queensland (Australia) and Associate Professor David van Duin, University of North Carolina (US) write: “at this stage we can conclude that the doomsday scenario of convergence of carbapenem resistance and colistin resistance (via mcr-1) has not yet occurred to any great extent in China. However, prior use of carbapenems was a risk factor for mcr-1 producing E coli, perhaps implying that the intersection between carbapenem resistance and the presence of this colistin resistance mechanism may yet be seen in the future. Furthermore, the spread of mcr-1 into globally widespread and virulent strains of E coli such as ST-131 is cause for ongoing concern and surveillance.

He added: “After carbapenems, new antibiotics will become available for clinical use in human medicine in China. There are risks that low-cost generic copies of these new antibiotics will be used in agriculture. We must be vigilant to this possibility and urge Chinese authorities to proactively prohibit use of these critical antibiotics outside of appropriate human use. Without such interventions, there will doubtless be more serious problems than mcr-1 seen in China in the near future.”

[1] The 2015 research was published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases http://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(15)00424-7/abstract



Indonesia-Australia relations and the perils of success

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo flanked by Indonesian Military Commander Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo (left) and National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian (right), rides a newly produced Anoa Amphibious tank by State-owned land system and weapons maker PT Pindad to cross a lake located inside the TNI headquarters in Cilangkap, East Jakarta recently. (Antara/Akbar Nugroho Gumay)

Indonesia-Australia relations seem to have hit another snag this year. In early January, the Indonesian military (TNI) was suspending all military cooperation with the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

As the news was confirmed by the TNI spokesman, the suspension made numerous domestic and international headlines. With the 24-hour news cycle, and the fact that Indonesia-Australia defense relations tend to be controversial, speculations ran wild and included some unnecessary ad-hominem attacks on the TNI commander.

It was only after the Coordinating Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Minister clarified that the “temporary suspension” only covered language training activities — rather than defense-wide cooperation — that the dust began to settle.

At a deeper level, the incident underscores the perils of success in Indonesia-Australia defense relations, which stems in particular from an overemphasis on (and occasional “public sanitizing” of) the TNI-ADF relationship.

Given the geopolitical history between the two neighbors, Jakarta and Canberra understandably believe that the relationship between their respective militaries is vital to the broader bilateral relationship. The 1999 East Timor debacle and the centrality of the 2006 Lombok Treaty in restoring bilateral relations only served to reinforce this perception.

Indeed, since then, TNI-ADF relations have quietly flourished. Thousands of TNI officers have gone through numerous Australian schools and training programs over the past decade, while exercises and other cooperative activities grew. The presence of an alumni association for graduates of both Indonesian and Australian military education and training programs, IKAHAN, seemingly solidified the defense relations.

These successes, however, may have had unintended consequences.

First, they have created, perhaps unconsciously, the impression that defense relations had matured by 2016. This may have led to complacency in some instances; such as not carefully and transparently managing every detail of the various education or training environments.

In other instances, it could lead to “tunnel vision” during crisis. We can see this in one of the narratives sprung from the latest incident: rogue generals with political ambitions and anti-Australian sentiments are to blame. After all, the argument goes, defense relations have been so successful in restoring military trust that the suspension could not have possibly reflected deeper insecurities within the TNI over separatism or its own history.

Needless to say, such narratives were inaccurate and counterproductive. But perhaps more importantly, they also sidetracked potential opportunities to better review existing defense cooperation programs.

Second, the over-emphasis on and extra care of the TNI-ADF relationship may have inadvertently hindered the broader integration of defense cooperation into the wider bilateral relationship.

Paradoxically, military-to-military relations have been consequently more susceptible to the waxing and waning of the domestic politics in Jakarta and Canberra. One government source told me that during the 2013 wiretapping crisis, some considered defense cooperation more expendable (i.e. able to be temporarily suspended) because there were no “real and practical” ramifications in other areas of the bilateral relationship.

As such, we might want to stop seeing TNI-ADF relations as inherently unique and therefore needing “special status” or “protection”. Instead, moving forward, we could consider ways to expand and deepen the integration of defense cooperation within the broader bilateral relationship, rather than relying on the former to strengthen the latter.

We can do so by deliberately integrating multiple non-military stakeholders — from the police, Foreign Ministry, to scholars and industry players — into pre-existing defense cooperation activities or create new ones to accommodate them. This could integrate the TNI further within the strategic community and create additional stabilizing layers into the bilateral relationship.

We can consider, for example, renewing engagement and institutionalizing partnerships between the civilian defense and strategic communities from both countries that could act as counterparts and counterweights to — and perhaps even communication channels between — the TNI and ADF.

In counterterrorism and maritime security, we could expand joint exercises and training specifically designed for multiple agencies to work together simultaneously. To counter illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, for example, we need the Navy, coast guard and the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry, among other institutions. Similarly with counter-terrorism, there are numerous activities that should involve elements of the army, police and intelligence community, as well as civilian agencies such customs or prison authorities.

Developing and expanding various bilateral joint multi-agency activities — from education to exercises — involving both military and non-military elements might also help alleviate some of the bureaucratic infighting and stove-piping prevalent on some of those issues.

Additional cooperation between the legislative and judicial branches of both countries over military policies — such as defense planning and budgeting, or the military justice system— could provide an additional layer too. After all, defense establishments tend to be wider than military organizations alone.

We can also perhaps consider possible joint defense industrial projects — whether bilaterally or regionally with other ASEAN members — to strengthen the business side of defense relations. This might, in the long run, help us jumpstart the relatively sluggish economic relations between the two countries.

Strengthening defense relations by focusing on non-defense policies may seem paradoxical but if done properly it might stabilize both TNI-ADF cooperation as well as the Indonesia-Australia relationship.

Evan A. Laksmana Researcher at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)



Standing Up to China Is Not 'Extremism'—It's Smart Foreign Policy

Standing Up to China Is Not 'Extremism'—It's Smart Foreign Policy

Some are making the argument to do nothing to antagonize China, even if it means forfeiting American interests and ideals. That would be a historic mistake.

The Japan Times must be having a hard time finding copy to fill its op-ed pages. Exhibit A: a screed from an “adjunct senior scholar” at the Chinese Communist Party–affiliated National Institute for South China Sea Studies in Haikou, China, concerning U.S. strategy toward China in the age of Trump. In Mark Valencia’s telling, Donald Trump’s ascent to the presidency has liberated “U.S. China-bashers” to have a “field day” at China’s expense. “Extremism” rules the day in Washington and academic precincts.


Wicked times are afoot, you’d think. But bear in mind that a lot of things look like extremism to someone who’s fronting for an extremist regime. To build his case Valencia refers obliquely to “two academics from the Naval War College.” The nameless academics, he says, suggest that “America should revive its past ‘daring-do’ [we think you mean derring-do, Mark] and ‘recognize that close quarters encounters, cat and mouse games between submarines and opposing fleets, and even deliberate collisions’ could become routine elements of the U.S.-China rivalry.”

We confess to being the scurrilous duo. The passages Valencia quotes come from an article we wrote for Orbis, a journal published by the University of Pennsylvania’s Foreign Policy Research Institute. (Look for the article here since he doesn’t bother furnishing a link.)

We compiled the article long before the election, and aimed it at whichever candidate might prevail. Our bottom line: China is already competing with America in the China seas and Western Pacific. Close-quarters encounters between Chinese and American ships and planes are already routine elements of the U.S.-China rivalry—just as they were between Soviet and American ships and planes during the Cold War. And Chinese seamen and airmen initiate these encounters.

Washington can either wrest the initiative away from Beijing, or it can remain passive and continue losing ground in the strategic competition. Better to seize the initiative. To do so the new U.S. administration must relearn the art of deterrence, and to deter Chinese aggression the administration must accept that hazards come with the territory. That’s Strategy 101—basic stuff for anyone fluent in statecraft.

Valencia is a lumper. He lumps our analysis with other commentators’ views, many quite different from our own, before attempting the equivalent of an op-ed drive-by shooting. All of our views are equivalent for him; all are expressions of “extremism.” The others—Gordon Chang and James Kraska, to name two—can doubtless speak up for themselves should they choose. We’ll stick to speaking up for ourselves.

And anyone who takes the trouble to read our item—download early, download often—will realize Valencia excerpts a couple of quotations out of context and retrofits them to a predetermined storyline. First write conclusion, then fit facts to it!

Let’s go through this point by point. First, Valencia implies that Trump’s victory initiated our analysis. “This deluge,” he opines, “was stimulated by statements by Trump and his nominees for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson and secretary of defense, James Mattis.” He goes on to assert that such “statements by incoming government leaders and influence peddlers provided an opportunity for America’s China hawks to promote their views.”


Valencia has it precisely backward. And a simple internet search would have revealed the blunder before he committed it. Explains Orbis editor-in-chief Mackubin Owens helpfully: “This special issue of Orbis features articles by FPRI associates offering ‘advice to the next president.’ Written before the election [our italics], these essays offer recommendations for national security affairs in general, as well as for regional issues.”

And so it was. We drafted the article in August—months ahead of the election, and when Hillary Clinton remained the odds-on favorite to win the White House. We assumed a Clinton administration would be the primary audience, but wrote it to advise whoever might prevail in November. In short, this was a nonpartisan venture, compiled in the spirit of our running counsel to the Obama administration.

And it should have bipartisan appeal. As secretary of state, it’s worth recalling, Clinton was also the architect of America’s “pivot,” a.k.a. “rebalance,” to Asia—an undertaking aimed at counterbalancing China. Considering China’s record of bellicosity in maritime Asia, and considering Clinton’s diplomatic past, we had good reason to believe that she and her lieutenants would prove as receptive to our message as Trump.

More so, maybe. In any event: it’s misleading and false for Valencia to accuse us of devising “U.S. tactics in the Trump era.” We are devising strategy to deter a domineering China—no matter who occupies the Oval Office. That our article appeared after Trump prevailed represents mere happenstance.

Second, Valencia insinuates that we hold extremist views. Well, we guess so…insofar as anyone who wants to deter an aggressor from further aggression entertains extremist views. Deterrence involves putting an antagonist on notice that it will suffer unacceptable consequences should it take some action we wish to proscribe. It involves fielding military power sufficient to make good on the threat, whether the requisite capabilities be nuclear or conventional. And it involves convincing the antagonist we’re resolute about making good on our threats.

We’re glad to keep company with such hardnosed practitioners of deterrence as Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and John Kennedy—extremists all, no doubt. Statesmen of yore made Moscow a believer in American power and resolve—and largely held the line against communism.

Except in that trivial sense, though, there’s nothing extreme about our argument. We maintain that China and the United States are pursuing irreconcilable goals in maritime Asia. The United States wants to preserve freedom of the sea, China wants anything but. Both contenders prize their goals, and both are presumably prepared to mount open-ended efforts of significant proportions to obtain those goals. If Beijing and Washington want nonnegotiable things a lot, then the Trump administration must gird itself for a long standoff.

Simple as that.

We also point out that China embarked on a massive buildup of maritime power over a decade ago. Excluding the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet, Beijing already boasts the largest naval and coast-guard fleets in Asia, not to mention a seagoing militia to augment its navy and coast guard. And these forces continue growing. China’s navy may number over 500 vessels by 2030. By contrast, the U.S. Navy espouses an eventual fleet of 355 vessels, up from 274 today. President Trump is on record favoring a 350-ship force. Defense budgets may—or may not—support a U.S. Navy that large.

These are objective facts about which the Chinese media regularly brag. Based on these material trends, we postulate that maritime Asia is becoming increasingly competitive, that China is a formidable competitor, and that the trendlines are running in its favor. How’s that for extreme?

We thus urge U.S. policymakers to acknowledge that the forward U.S. presence in Asia will come under mounting danger in the coming years. Washington may have to gamble from time to time to shore it up. It may have to hold things that Beijing treasures—things like the Chinese navy’s surface fleet—at risk. We encourage decision-makers to embrace risk as an implement of statecraft rather than shy away from it. Manipulating and imposing risk is a universal strategy that practitioners in Beijing routinely employ. Washington should reply in kind.

And as Valencia well knows—or should know—risk-taking constitutes part of the art of strategy. The approach we recommend is well-grounded in theory, as articulated by the late Nobel laureate Thomas Schelling and many others.

There is nothing novel about risk, then. U.S. leaders must rediscover this elemental fact. For too long Washington recoiled from taking risk, treating it as a liability while conflating it with recklessness. But a risk-averse nation has a hard time deterring: who believes a diffident statesman’s deterrent threats? We simply implore civilian and military leaders to realign their attitude toward risk to match the changing strategic landscape in Asia. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Our argument, then, is a far cry from the extremism Valencia deplores in his hit piece. A casual reader of his commentary can be pardoned for concluding that we advocate reckless action on the U.S. Navy’s part. But it’s Valencia who failed his audience.

Third, Valencia claims that because of recent statements from U.S. policy-makers—and by implication because of our writing, which he falsely depicts as a product of those statements—“the damage to the U.S.-China relationship and the stability of the region has already been done.” But what damage is he referring to? As of this writing, the Trump administration has been in office less than a week. The White House has issued no official policy touching the South China Sea. As far as we know, our fleets in the Western Pacific have done nothing unusual.

Valencia, it appears, is objecting to a few China-related tweets from Trump following the November elections. Valencia is indulging in hype.

China, by contrast, has inflicted colossal damage on regional concord. Beijing has repeatedly intimidated the Philippines, Vietnam, and Japan in offshore areas. It has built islands occupying thousands of acres of land in the heart of the South China Sea. It has fortified these manufactured islets, breaking President Xi Jinping’s pledge not to militarize them. It has rattled its saber through successive military drills, and issued stark warnings about war through various media mouthpieces.

And lastly, Valencia suggests that the United States should relinquish vital interests—including those of its Asian allies—to mollify Chinese sensibilities. He cites, for example, a Chinese scholar voicing concern that “The theme of clash of civilizations [is] becoming increasingly popular in Chinese circles.” Valencia also frets about “a possible Thucydian trap [we think you mean Thucydides trap, Mark],” a “supposedly ‘inevitable’ conflict between a status-quo power and a rising power.”

His implication, presumably, is that Washington, the guardian of the status quo, should acquiesce in Beijing’s bullying to escape the Thucydides trap. That would square with China’s party line. And indeed, aggressors do love to win peacefully.

Valencia further objects that the timing of a U.S. policy turnabout is inconvenient for the Chinese. He observes that the 19th Party Congress will convene this fall to determine China’s leadership transition. President Xi might take a hard line in advance of the congress to placate nationalist audiences. A U.S. policy shift might box him in.

That may be true, but Chinese Communist Party politics cannot form the basis of U.S. foreign policy. Nor, it bears mentioning, do the Chinese consult or respect American political timelines as they pursue foreign-policy aims. Just the opposite: they regard the last months of a departing administration and early months of an incoming administration as opportune times to make mischief.

Valencia’s message to America is plain: do nothing to antagonize China, even if it means forfeiting American interests and ideals. He falls squarely into the don’t provoke China school we take to task at Orbis. It is precisely this camp’s thinking that begat paralysis in U.S. maritime strategy in Asia. Inaction is no longer tolerable as the strategic circumstances change around us.

As for the Japan Times and its readership: Japanese leaders and rank-and-file citizens should pray the Trump administration rejects Mark Valencia’s words. If the administration heeded them, it would loosen or abandon the alliance that underwrites Japan’s security and prosperity. That would constitute Beijing’s price for U.S.-China amity. And if America paid that price, surrendering the Senkaku Islands to China would represent the least of Japan’s worries. Dark days would lie ahead.

Let’s make China worry instead.

James Holmes and Toshi Yoshihara are professors of strategy at the Naval War College and coauthors of Red Star over the Pacific, named the most extreme book on China’s rise.


Why the World Needs to Watch the India-Pakistan Nuclear Standoff

Why the World Needs to Watch the India-Pakistan Nuclear Standoff

Nuclear dangers are growing in five different regions. The least noticed is South Asia. New Delhi has not been able to figure out how to deal with militant groups that enjoy safe havens in Pakistan. So far, India’s options have been to do nothing after attacks or execute war plans that invite mushroom clouds. A third option, which involves commando raids, may now be coming into view.

During seven decades of strained relations, Indian war planning has been downsized from fighting major conflicts to fighting limited conventional wars. Comparatively speaking, moving from limited conventional war to commando raids is a step in the right direction. But this progression offers little consolation when the potential for escalation is ever present, and when nuclear weapons serve as a backdrop to every military encounter.

India’s classic war plan against Pakistan centered on large-scale, time-consuming mobilizations along two main fighting corridors. This plan didn’t help India after the “Twin Peaks” crisis, sparked by a brazen attack on the Indian parliament in 2001. India carried out a massive mobilization, but Pakistan’s army deployed faster after a delayed start, which made the prospect of a full-scale conventional war under the shadow of nuclear weapons a poor choice for New Delhi.

War plans don’t go away; they evolve. India’s army then pivoted to plans for quick strikes and shallow advances along many possible avenues of attack. Rawalpindi countered by embracing nuclear weapons tailored for various kinds of battlefield use. The Indian Army’s so-called “Cold Start” doctrine remains on the books, even though implementation is problematic due to long-standing disconnects in civil-military relations, joint-military operations and military procurement. More importantly, a limited conventional war, no matter how carefully planned, may not stay limited. India’s civilian leaders have yet to endorse the army’s plans, and didn’t employ them after the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Since then, Pakistan has been more victimized by acts of terror than India. But because the perpetrators are overwhelmingly homegrown—and since they have refrained from attacking Indian targets—their carnage does not prompt war scares on the subcontinent.

In contrast, attacks against Indian targets that originate in Pakistan have clear escalatory potential. They typically occur after New Delhi makes overtures to improve relations with Pakistan. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made three such overtures. He invited Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to attend his inauguration in May 2014, he agreed in July 2015 to resume a composite dialogue on all outstanding issues, and he made an unannounced visit to Lahore bearing birthday and wedding gifts for Nawaz Sharif and his family on Christmas Day 2015.

Attacks on Indian military camps or consulates in Afghanistan followed after each of these overtures. After the attack on the Indian military outpost at Uri last September, Modi dispensed with diplomacy and adopted a very hard line. The announcement of “surgical strikes” across the Kashmir divide followed, and were reinforced by pointed references to Pakistan’s jugular—stirring up greater disaffection in Baluchistan and revisiting the Indus Waters Treaty.

Relations between India and Pakistan are now stuck in a bad place and have poor prospects of improvement in the near term. Bilateral diplomacy is limping along, the Kashmir Valley is seething due to ham-fisted governance and a lockdown by Indian security forces, and artillery fire can again be heard across the Kashmir divide.

Rawalpindi’s military’s campaign against the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan will probably never end. But now that it is winding down, Pakistan is being asked what the next step in counterterrorism operations might be. So far, there has been no answer. Taking aim at the Afghan Taliban leadership and the Haqqani network seems unlikely, because ceding influence in Kabul to India is not in the cards. Tackling anti-India and violence-prone sectarian groups also seems problematic because doing so would result in a more intrusive military presence and significant spikes of violence—especially in the Punjab. To turn against anti-India groups when Modi has adopted a hard line and when Kashmiris are deeply disaffected doesn’t seem likely. Consequently, much is now left to chance—particularly additional attacks on Indian military and diplomatic outposts.

Domestic politics and shrill social and television media militate against hesitant Indian reactions, even to low-level attacks by groups enjoying safe havens in Pakistan. Hotheads don’t care that attacks against Indian targets have hurt Pakistan’s regional and international standing; nor do they care whether or not India retaliates. New Delhi expects support—or at least silence—if it decides to strike back.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s diplomacy is hamstrung. The talking point that Pakistan does not distinguish between “good” and “bad” terrorists is belied by facts on the ground. Calls for a resumption of dialogue and a focus on conflict resolution do not resonate because “bad” terrorists that enjoy safe havens stymie both. Until it takes very hard, demonstrable steps against these groups, Pakistan cannot expect a fair hearing about its legitimate grievances.

Michael Krepon is Co-founder of the Stimson Center. His latest edited volume is The Lure and Pitfalls of MIRVs: From the First to the Second Nuclear Age.

Image: Pakistani Shaheen-I ballistic missile. Pixabay/Public domain