6 November 2020

After Abe: Japan’s Foreign Policy and its India Engagement

Purnendra Jain


Yoshihide Suga has succeeded Shinzo Abe as Japan’s prime minister. A foreign policy activist, Abe recognised India’s strategic importance and worked tirelessly to take the Japan-­‐India relationship to new heights, giving both breadth and depth as no prime minister before him. Under Suga, cut from the same Liberal Democratic Party cloth as Abe, Indo-­‐Japanese bilateral ties are likely to remain safe. However, Suga’s lack of experience in foreign affairs and his focus firmly placed on domestic issues, India may not be top on his list of priorities. India will need to actively leverage the strengths of the Abe-­‐era partnership in order to keep it relevant.

Shinzo Abe Exits

The unexpected resignation in late August 2020 of Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister and Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) president, due to illness, surprised many in Japan and around the world. Still with one full year left in his term, Abe became the longest-­‐serving prime minister in Japan’s parliamentary history and exceptionally had two stints in office – one short (2006-­‐2007) and another much longer (2012-­‐2020). Abe’s exit therefore truly symbolises the end of an era. He developed extensive networks with global leaders, and with some of them, such as India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, developed close personal ties. As C Raja Mohan observes, “Few modern international interlocutors of India brought the kind of personal affection and policy innovation that Abe did in the engagement with Delhi. For Abe, India was very special.”1

On his resignation, words of praise poured on Twitter handles from world leaders commending Abe for his contribution to their bilateral relations and called him a “true friend” and a “great friend”. Modi, in his tweet, addressed Abe as “my dear friend” and acknowledged that due to “your wise leadership and personal commitment, the India-­‐Japan partnership has become deeper and stronger than ever before.” The two nations not just deepened bilateral relations but also broadened them through cooperation and partnership in third countries and established mini-­‐lateral frameworks with other like-­‐minded nations.

The Erdogan Effect: Turkey’s Relations with Pakistan and India

Vinay Kaura

Ever since the Islamist-­‐conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002, Turkey’s engagement with South Asia has involved a combination of economic cooperation, soft-­‐power projection, conflict resolution diplomacy, Muslim solidarity politics and defence supplies. The flurry of Turkish activism gives rise to many questions. What drives Turkey’s interest in India and Pakistan? Will Ankara establish itself as a power-­‐broker for years to come? How much bandwagoning or counterbalancing among local actors has been generated by Turkey’s rising presence in the region? Most of these questions have no simple answers. While ties with Pakistan appear important to Turkey, through its uncritical support to Islamabad’s stance on the Kashmir issue, Ankara has lost ground in India, especially since Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have deepened ties with India. Turkey is likely to remain vulnerable to South Asia’s enduring rivalries and geopolitical faultlines, such as the Kashmir issue, the endgame in Afghanistan, problems of Uyghur Muslims, and now the increasing strategic competition between India and China.


Ankara’s special bond with Islamabad goes back to the Cold War era, when both were American allies in an apparent bid to contain the Soviet expansionism. As rightly argued by C Raja Mohan, “the Turkish establishment’s uncritical embrace of Pakistan has been unchanging, irrespective of who dominated Ankara — the secular army or the current Islamist leadership.”1 Turkey established diplomatic ties with India in 1948. However, two factors – Turkey’s pro-­‐Pakistan stance on the Kashmir issue and its membership of the Western military alliances – seriously hindered Indo-­‐Turkish ties during the Cold War period. To put it more bluntly, India, largely viewed through the prism of Pakistan, was never a priority in Turkey’s foreign policy during the Cold War.

Recent Labour Reforms in India: How will they Facilitate Investments?

Partha Pratim Mitra

India has replaced 29 existing labour laws with four codes. The changes in labour laws should facilitate ease of doing business in the country and make them contemporary in keeping with changes in the labour markets. Flexibility of hiring workers will also increase while ensuring that all sections of the workforce, including the unorganised workers, gig workers and the platform workers, receive social security. The arguments for implementing labour reforms are to enable companies to adjust their labour requirements in line with changes in market demand, ensure better compliance of labour laws through online modes and shift of the labour inspection regime from a negative regulatory regime based on ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ to a more positive inspector and facilitator approach. The amalgamation of the laws brought about through codification will also remove the multiplicity of definitions and authorities without compromising the basic concepts of welfare and benefits to workers. Further, the use of technology for the effective enforcement of the provisions is intended to ensure transparency and accountability.

India has replaced 29 existing labour laws with four codes. The Code on Wages was enacted on 8 August 2019. The Codes on Industrial Relations (IR), Occupational, Safety, Health and Working Conditions (OSH) and Social Security (CSS) were passed by the Indian parliament on 23 September 2020.

The new laws should facilitate the ease of doing business in the country and make labour regulations contemporary given the transformation in India’s labour market over the years. Flexibility of hiring workers would also increase while ensuring that all sections of the workforce, including the unorganised, (platform workers and gig workers)1 get social security. The underlying arguments behind labour reforms are to enable companies to adjust their labour requirements along with changes in market demand, ensure better compliance of labour laws through online modes, and shift of the labour inspection regime from a negative emphasis on ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ to a positive ‘inspector and facilitator’ approach.

Deadly Taliban Attack Probably Used Drone, a Worrisome Shift

Najim Rahim, Thomas Gibbons-Neff

KABUL, Afghanistan — A Taliban attack, most likely carried out by a drone, killed at least four security officers in northern Afghanistan on Sunday, according to senior and local Afghan officials, representing what could be the group’s first publicly known use of the method in the 19-year war.

The strike targeted the governor’s compound in Kunduz, a province that has seen heavy fighting, like much of the country, in recent months despite continuing peace talks between Taliban and Afghan government negotiators in Qatar. At least eight other people were wounded in the blast, local officials said.

“When the Kunduz governor bodyguards were playing volleyball in the governor’s guesthouse, the explosion took place among them,” said Ghulam Rabbani Rabbani, a member of Kunduz’s provincial council.

“It is not clear that it was an explosion or a missile or drone attack,” he added.

Fazal Karim Aimaq, a member of the Afghan Parliament from Kunduz, said on his Facebook page that the episode represented “a new method of attack" but did not say if a drone had carried it out.

A Taliban spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Afghanistan’s Terrorism Challenge: The Political Trajectories of al-Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, and the Islamic State

Asfandyar Mir

Afghanistan remains at the center of U.S. and international counterterrorism concerns. As America prepares to pull out its military forces from the country, policymakers remain divided on how terrorist groups in Afghanistan might challenge the security of the U.S. and the threat they pose to allies and regional countries. Advocates of withdrawal argue that the terrorism threat from Afghanistan is overstated, while opponents argue that it remains significant and is likely to grow after the drawdown of U.S. forces. This report evaluates the terrorism challenge in Afghanistan by focusing on the political trajectories of three key armed actors in the Afghan context: al-Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, and the Islamic State.

Executive Summary

Afghanistan remains at the center of U.S. and international counterterrorism concerns. As America prepares to pull out its military forces from the country, policymakers remain divided on how terrorist groups in Afghanistan might challenge the security of the U.S. and the threat they pose to allies and regional countries. Advocates of withdrawal argue that the terrorism threat from Afghanistan is overstated, while opponents say that it remains significant and is likely to grow after the drawdown of U.S. forces. This report evaluates the terrorism challenge in Afghanistan by focusing on the political trajectories of three key armed actors in the Afghan context: al-Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, and the Islamic State.

Three sets of findings are key. First, al-Qaeda remains resilient in Afghanistan and seeks a U.S. withdrawal. The U.S. government believes al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri is in Afghanistan. After several challenging years, al-Qaeda appears to have improved its political cohesion and its organizational capital seems to be steadily growing. The status of the group’s transnational terrorism capabilities from Afghanistan is unclear; they are either constrained or well-concealed. Al-Qaeda retains alliances with important armed groups, such as the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani insurgent group, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Senkaku Islands: Could the U.S. Military and Japan Really Land Troops?

by James Holmes

U.S. troops landing on the Senkaku Islands? Could be.

Last week Lieutenant General Kevin Schneider, the commander of U.S. forces based in Japan, launched the U.S.-Japanese exercise Keen Sword 21 with words to that effect. Keen Sword brings together units from all four U.S. military services together with their brethren from the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF). Announced General Schneider on board a Japanese warship, the allied force demonstrated “the ability to move a few people” around Japan’s southwestern islands.

But he added that “the same capability could be used to deploy combat troops to defend the Senkaku Islands or respond to other crises and contingencies.”

Schneider’s specific mention of the Senkakus was telling. Let’s speculate about what a deployment to the uninhabited islets—which adjoin Japan’s Ryukyu Islands but constitute an archipelago distinct from the Ryukyus—might look like. Start with the extreme case. If troops alighted on the Senkakus, would they build a permanent base? Doubtful—though less doubtful than in the past. After all, China’s island- and base-building project in the South China Sea proves that engineers can transmogrify unlikely sites into military facilities given enough labor, resources, and political resolve.

Tokyo and Washington could afford Beijing the sincerest form of flattery, and without exerting the same degree of effort. After all, the Senkakus already exist. Allied civil engineers would doubtless improve the terrain in the interest of withstanding air, missile, or amphibian attack. They would have no need to manufacture the substructure for a base out of reefs, atolls, or the seafloor the way Chinese engineers excavated in the South China Sea. In that sense planting an installation on the islets would be easy and straightforward.

What really drives the South China Sea conflict


As the US-China contest for control of the South China Sea approaches kinetic conflict, many pundits are proffering reasons as to why it has come to this point. Many blame a variety of superficial disputes – over territory, maritime space, resources and the environment, and the disingenuous red herring of threats to freedom of navigation.

But these are only the tip of an iceberg of dialectics that is driving this conflict. Indeed, the reasons for this dire situation are submerged and much more fundamental.

At base is a clash of political systems – authoritarian communism versus democratic capitalism – and their underlying ideology and values. Although the US hoped that China’s values and system would become more like its own, that is now recognized as unlikely, and probably always was. This dialectic is driving the Americans’ desire to dominate Southeast Asia and, in particular, the South China Sea.

China’s motives are primarily self-defense and what it views as the rightful restoration of its sphere of influence. The US wants to maintain its hegemony and the “international order” it helped build and now leads to its asymmetric benefit.

The US has declared China a “strategic competitor” and a “revisionist” nation. It believes that it and China are engaged in “a geopolitical competition between free and repressive visions of world order” in the Indo-Pacific region.

Taiwan’s Overall Defense Concept, Explained

By Lee Hsi-min and Eric Lee

At a time of growing assertiveness in Beijing’s foreign policy and growing risk of cross-strait military conflict, getting Taiwan’s defense strategy right is more essential than ever. In the face of an existential threat and uncertain U.S. military support, Taiwan must enhance its self-defense capabilities by implementing and institutionalizing the Overall Defense Concept (ODC).

The ODC is Taiwan’s current strategy for dealing with a potential Chinese invasion in a resource-constrained environment. In short, the ODC is a holistically integrated strategy for guiding Taiwan’s military force development and joint operations, emphasizing Taiwan’s existing natural advantages, civilian infrastructure and asymmetrical warfare capabilities. It is designed to deter and, if necessary, defeat an invasion by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The Overall Defense Concept

The Overall Defense Concept is premised on two assumptions: (1) Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Xi Jinping’s “China dream” of unifying Taiwan; and (2) the increasing resource imbalance across the Taiwan Strait. Despite Taiwan having never been under the rule of the CCP, unification remains embedded in the concept of the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” To accomplish the great rejuvenation, Xi has explicitly stated that he will not renounce the annexation of Taiwan by force. At the same time that Taiwan’s government unveiled its largest ever defense budget, Beijing has spent more than 20 times that on bolstering the PLA. According to estimates by the U.S. Department of Defense, PLA expenditure last year topped $250 billion, dwarfing Taiwan’s latest defense budget of $11 billion. This has resulted in the PLA’s qualitative and quantitative advantage over the Republic of China (ROC) armed forces. CCP military-civil fusion policies have leveraged private industry to proliferate China’s military-technological edge, and PLA active forces now outnumber Taiwan’s by a factor of 12. This resource and capability gap will continue to widen as Xi has declared that the PLA will be completely modernized by 2035 and become a world-class military by 2049.

Turning the Tap Off: The Impacts of Social Media Shutdown After Sri Lanka’s Easter Attacks

Amarnath Amarasingam, Rukshana Rizwie

This report examines the social media shutdown in the wake of the Easter Attacks in Sri Lanka, and its impacts on journalists and post-incident communal violence. By highlighting the shutdown’s limitations, social costs and impact on misinformation, this report presents key recommendations for policy-makers, journalists and other key stakeholders.

This report is part of a wider project, led by the International Centre for Counter- Terrorism (ICCT) – the Hague, and funded by the EU Devco on “Mitigating the Impact of Media Reporting of Terrorism”. This project aims to produce evidence-based guidance and capacity building outputs based on original, context-sensitive research into the risks and opportunities in media reporting of terrorism and terrorist incidents. The role of media reporting on terrorism has been under investigated and is an underutilised dimension of a holistic counter-terrorism strategy. How the media reports on terrorism has the potential to impact counter-terrorism (CT) perspective positively or negatively.

Charting a Transatlantic Course to Address China

By Julianne Smith, Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Carisa Nietsche and Ellison Laskowski

Executive Summary

Mounting competition between China and liberal democracies will shape the course of the 21st century. The gravity and scope of the challenges that China poses have permeated the transatlantic policy agenda and become a focal point in U.S.-Europe relations. Whereas China has long been a source of disagreement and even tension between the transatlantic partners, in the past two years views have converged. The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) assertive actions—its “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy, aggressive influence operations, human rights violations at home, and elimination of fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong—have increased concerns in both the United States and Europe. There is now fertile ground for transatlantic cooperation on everything from reducing dependency on Chinese trade and investment to setting global norms and standards for the future. Yet, despite this convergence of views and interests, there is still no roadmap for how such cooperation should progress.

This report outlines such an approach. It is based on the premise that the time is ripe for greater transatlantic cooperation on China. It also recognizes the comprehensive nature of the task at hand. Today’s controversies with China over trade, investment, technology, and global governance are all part of a larger competition between political systems and worldviews. The breadth of the challenge means that the United States and Europe must compete with China across multiple domains. This report lays out a roadmap for doing so, outlining concrete recommendations across the four sectors of technology, investment, trade, and global governance. By working together, the United States and Europe can pool the resources and leverage needed to push back against the CCP in these areas and develop preferred alternatives that advance strategic priorities for both sides of the Atlantic. Moreover, the strategies outlined in this report will also serve a second purpose: re-energizing the ailing relationship between Europe and the United States.

China and the US risk accidental war over Taiwan

Minxin Pei

Minxin Pei is professor of government at Claremont McKenna College and a nonresident senior fellow of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

When 18 Chinese warplanes breached Taiwan's air defense identification zone last month, it was a further sign of rising tensions across the Taiwan Strait.

The latest in a series of large-scale military exercises aimed at intimidating Taiwan, official Chinese media warned the self-governing island's leaders -- and the U.S., which has stepped up its military and diplomatic support for Taipei -- of dire consequences if unspecified Chinese red lines are crossed.

All of which has raised fears that China is preparing to launch a military assault on Taiwan.

While no one should dismiss Chinese military threats and activities as mere posturing, a careful examination of Beijing's strategic calculations brings a clearer understanding of the real dynamics driving its intentions toward Taiwan.

According to the narrative that has gained the most traction recently, China is losing patience as the prospect of a peaceful reunification with the island slips further away. Yet despite all the bellicose rhetoric and unprecedented acts of intimidation, Beijing is highly unlikely to pursue a military option because of the high risk and astronomical costs involved.

What Is the End Game of US-China Competition?

By Andy Zelleke

What “yesable proposition,” fundamentally, is the United States offering China?

That’s the question that the late negotiation guru, Roger Fisher, would likely be asking today, given the concerning freefall in U.S.-China relations. To avert the massive costs and foregone opportunities of a new cold war — let alone a catastrophic hot war — is there a plausible vision for the future that could keep both Washington and Beijing happy? Or that would at least minimally satisfy each, in light of their alternatives? A stable equilibrium that the two rivals could sign onto, expressly or tacitly?

Should he win tomorrow’s presidential election, Joe Biden will assume responsibility for the United States’ China policy, and will own the vision for which the policy aims. Alongside much that the new president should discard, his predecessor will have bequeathed two building blocks of China policy that Biden should, with significant adjustment, retain: containment, and coalition.

Containment and Coalition

Containment strategy has featured prominently in President Donald Trump’s broader China policy, manifest in actions like its freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, its conceptualization of an Indo-Pacific theater, and its ever-closer embrace of non-treaty ally Taiwan. He has also sought to contain China’s economic power via a dubious trade war, and to contain its ambition to dominate strategically consequential technologies like 5G infrastructure. These policies have built, in part, on foundations laid by Trump’s predecessors. Conspicuously, though, the Trump team added rhetoric harkening back to the Cold War version of containment, suggesting at times that its China policy’s ultimate objective is to destabilize Chinese Communist Party rule.

US-China Rivalry: Who Will Prevail?

By Mercy A. Kuo

Trans-Pacific View author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners, and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into U.S. Asia policy. This conversation with Ambassador Alfredo Toro Hardy – former Venezuelan ambassador to the United States, United Kingdom, Spain, Brazil, Singapore, Chile, and Ireland; visiting professor at the universities of Princeton, Brasilia, and Barcelona, two-time Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center resident scholar; and author of 20 books including newly published “China vs. the US: Who Will Prevail?” (World Scientific 2020) – is the 245th in “The Trans-Pacific View Insight Series.”

What is the core element underpinning U.S.-China rivalry? 

The Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States had an ideology as its core underpinning element. This emerging Cold War is not based on ideology, as China is not trying to sell the virtues of communism to anyone, not even to its own population. On the contrary, the rivalry between China and the U.S. is based on the capability shown by each of them to outmatch the other in terms of results. This means that the core element of the current Cold War is efficiency.

The United States was particularly well suited for an ideologically oriented Cold War. Having been the birthplace of modern democracy and its most devoted practitioner, it was easy to reclaim the leadership of the “Free World.” Especially so, as the Soviet regime embodied a missionary ideology. Conversely, the U.S. is badly prepared for a competition defined in terms of efficiency, as its political system is becoming increasingly dysfunctional.

Get Ready for an Energy Export Battle with China

by Connor Sutherland

When navigating Asia’s energy landscape, two (related) concerns supersede all other issues: Asia’s vociferous appetite for energy and the looming, existential threat of climate change. Through a bold approach to global energy, the United States can simultaneously provide for the region’s energy needs on a long-term basis, combat a changing climate in areas most affected by its consequences, and challenge Chinese geopolitical supremacy in its own backyard.

In its annual International Outlook Report last year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projected that between 2018 and 2050, consumption of liquid fuels will jump by 22 percent in Asia while production stays high in the United States, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, and Russia. Natural gas consumption in the region, where local production will stay flat, will rise by more than a fifth. The report also maintains that the United States will be the largest natural gas producer by mid-century, exporting more than twenty-five trillion cubic feet annually.

Increasing energy exports to U.S. allies like Japan and South Korea further bolsters the bilateral relationship Washington has with both Tokyo and Seoul while also signaling renewed confidence and support for those nations, which is valuable in the context of a rising (and more assertive) China. It is in this environment that, in the wake of an increasingly nationalist Beijing, those governments may feel inclined to favor American exports over Middle Eastern barrels. Increasing exports to India, which imports more than 80 percent of its oil, in addition to being exceptionally lucrative for U.S. energy firms (the EIA estimates India will consume more energy than the United States by 2040), would serve as a means to court the world’s largest democracy amidst its increasing hostilities with China, which in recent months have grown hot.

The US-China Economic Competition: Economic Distancing, But on Whose Terms?

John Lee


In July 2020, Chinese chairman Xi Jinping articulated a new “dual circulation” strategy to “unleash the full potential of [China’s] domestic demand,” build technological and other forms of “self-reliance” as quickly as possible, and position China to engage better and more resiliently with international markets on superior terms. This includes creating self-sufficient cycles of production, distribution, and consumption for domestic economic development.

Many China watchers and commentators immediately assumed this to be China’s belated response to the “decoupling” policies of the Trump administration. Beijing is resigned to the likelihood this American approach will continue under a second-term Trump administration or a first-term Joe Biden White House, albeit with some modifications.

In reality, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has long aimed for economic distance and self-reliance in many areas. More recently but before the Trump administration, Beijing had sought to delimit its economic exposure and dependency on the US and craft strategies to advance a Sinocentric economic order that excludes the US in important regards and limits US involvement in others.

Getting the sequence of economic policies pursued by both sides right is important. It is a necessary correction to the widespread perception that decoupling began with the US, while a previously passive and unaware China is simply responding with defensive measures to protect itself against the US economic offensive. In many respects, China is well ahead of the US in conceiving and implementing measures to move away from the US and surpass it in economic terms.

China’s economic recovery picks up pace

Surging exports and imports as well as improved consumption were an attestation to the strength of China’s economy. The effective containment strategy for the virus and quickly implemented stimulus measures have been key to turning the economy around after its historic contraction in the first quarter. The CCP can now, with great confidence, start getting ready for the Party’s centennial celebrations in 2021.

The rebound gathered pace over the third quarter, expanding the economy by 4.9 percent. With GDP for the first three quarters increasing by 0.7 percent, China looks likely to be the only large economy in the world that will end the year with positive economic growth. For foreign investors China has become something of a safe haven, with investments flowing into the country.

Pictures of masses of travelers packing train stations and flocking to China’s main tourist destinations over the national day holiday in early October were clearly intended to send a strong signal: China’s economy is roaring back to life. 

Compared to the fairly rapid rebound in manufacturing and investment over the first half of the year, the recovery in household consumption has lagged. A strong comeback in travel activity ought to be evidence that all is back to normal. However, the total number of trips during the “golden week” holiday was 20 percent below last year. This comes despite the holiday week being 8 days long, compared to 7 last year, due to coinciding with the mid-autumn festival.

US Policy and the Resurgence of ISIS in Iraq and Syria

Elizabeth Dent


As attacks by ISIS increase in both Iraq and Syria, the upcoming U.S. presidential election offers a turning point for how U.S. foreign policy will seek to address a potential ISIS resurgence. This paper lays out this growing problem and recommends policy, which will be constrained by the outcome of the November election.

Key points

ISIS attacks in Iraq and Syria have increased significantly in 2020, demonstrating both a capacity and a willingness on ISIS’s part to retake territory, populations, and resources.

In the wake of COVID-19 and the drawdown of U.S. forces, security gaps have worsened, allowing ISIS to move more freely, conduct prison breaks, carry out more sophisticated attacks, and smuggle fighters across borders.

The upcoming U.S. presidential election also offers a distinct choice between two candidates: one who will maintain the current disengaged and incoherent status quo and the other who will purportedly maintain a light but effective footprint in the region to counter the remnants of ISIS.

The U.S. government must pursue a foreign policy that redirects focus away from a singularly counter-Iran mission, reinvigorates coalition partners to invest and train in the region, surges efforts to support our Iraqi and Syrian partners, and embraces and invests in a diplomacy-first approach.

No Longer United Against Israel: The New Arab World

By Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Mordechai Kedar

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The Arab states are no longer a single bloc opposing Israel but are divided into two coalitions. One is on Iran’s side; the other is against it. Israel, which in the past was perceived as the problem, has become part of the solution.

For many years it has been commonly accepted that there is an “Arab world.” That world had a unifying institution in the Arab League, a leadership body in the Arab Summit, and a more or less unitary agenda centered around the desire to see Israel disappear and a Palestinian state take its place.

That last element now belongs to the past. For several years now, the so-called “Arab world” has ceased to be what it once was. What exists today are two hostile coalitions that are fighting one another with great tenacity and no sensitivity to the casualties being suffered on either side.

One of these coalitions contains Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Qatar, and Gaza, and it is supported from the outside by Turkey, Russia, and China. Against it stands an opposing coalition made up of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan, and Israel, supported from the outside by the US. The remaining Arab states lie somewhere between the coalitions.

Israel has been added to Saudi Arabia’s coalition because—and only because—it has proven in recent years that it is the only country in the world capable of inflicting, time after time and at an average frequency of once a week, severe blows on an Iranian force or a pro-Iranian militia in Syria. The Saudi coalition has noted with interest that with the exception of a single instance, Tehran appears to be afraid of hitting back at Israel. Israel is thus effectively deterring Iran.

If Trump Wins, Washington’s Brain Trust Is Eyeing the Exit Door

By Robbie Gramer, Jack Detsch

National security professionals across U.S. government agencies fear an exodus of senior experts from government if Donald Trump is elected to a second term, according to a dozen current and former officials across multiple agencies, who said that the president’s disdain of government expertise and political attacks on seasoned diplomats could spark a massive brain drain.

During his four years in the White House, Trump has drawn fire for dismissing or undermining senior intelligence and law enforcement officials dealing with Russia, ignoring top government health experts on the response to the coronavirus pandemic, and shutting out career diplomats from decisions on foreign policy.

Already, Trump has vowed to fire more senior government officials if he is reelected, including CIA Director Gina Haspel, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading expert on infectious diseases, who has been at the forefront of the U.S. response to the pandemic—and who rendered a scathing judgment of the administration’s failed response in a Washington Post interview last week.

The onslaught of politicized attacks, scattershot approaches to policymaking, and Trump’s norm-shattering methods of governance have worn down many veteran national security professionals, said the current and former officials, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The Pentagon is building a school to teach the force how to defeat drones

By Jen Judson

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has identified a lack of institutionalized training when it comes to defeating drone threats and is developing a common regimen across the joint force, according to an official with a new office dedicated to countering small unmanned aircraft systems.

The gap was identified during an assessment completed earlier this year and led by the director of operational test and evaluation.

“There are currently no joint linkages or commonality to counter-UAS training across the department,” said Lt. Col. David Morgan, who is with the Joint Counter-Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Office’s requirements and capabilities division, said during an Oct. 30 C-sUAS capability virtual industry open house.

“Every service is executing service-specific training. The average soldier, airman or Marine lacks adequate counter-UAS training. It’s not fully embedded in the [program of instruction] from basic training onward,” he said, adding that training is often completed downrange without sustainment or reinforcement efforts.

Creating a training element toward countering small drones is one part of the Pentagon’s larger effort to develop enduring C-sUAS capabilities that keep pace with the evolution of UAV threats. The Joint Counter-Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Office, or JCO, was stood up earlier this year and has already selected interim systems to fill the gap while it develops capabilities for future threats.

Drone wars: U.S. military maneuvers to defeat enemy unmanned aircraft

By Ben Wolfgang

The U.S. military radically changed warfare over the past two decades with its pioneering use of armed drones on the battlefield.

That revolution in conflict, however, has sparked an urgent new mission for the Pentagon: to defend against the other guy’s drones.

As “unmanned aerial vehicles” become exponentially faster, cheaper, more deadly and more widespread around the globe, U.S. military planners are racing to develop a viable defense for suddenly vulnerable troops, tanks and ships.

Analysts and military researchers say nations, along with nonstate hostile actors such as terrorist groups and drug cartels, now grasp the immense strategic value that small drones provide and the inability of most enemies to counter them effectively.

Counterdrone platforms will become especially crucial in the coming decades as China and other rivals invest heavily in terrifying swarm technology that allows dozens or even hundreds of aircraft to harass, disrupt and in some cases destroy traditional military formations.

Jamestown Foundation

Diplomatic Visits, New Arms Sales, and PLA Provocations Raise Tensions in the Taiwan Strait

Taiwan Opinion Polling on Unification with China

Sino-Indian Trade and Investment Relations Amid Growing Border Tensions

The Security Component of the BRI in Central Asia, Part Three: China’s (Para)Military Efforts to Promote Security in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan

Where to Next?: PLA Considerations for Overseas Base Site Selection

[Research Reports] Submarine Cables and International Relations

“Research Reports” are compiled by participants in research groups set up at the Japan Institute of International Affairs, and are designed to disseminate, in a timely fashion, the content of presentations made at research group meetings or analyses of current affairs. The “Research Reports” represent their authors’ views. In addition to these “Research Reports”, individual research groups will publish “Research Bulletins” covering the full range of the group’s research themes.

1. The Beginning of Submarine Cables

The first submarine cable was laid in the English Channel in 1851. The cable, which was mistaken for a new kind of seaweed, was quickly severed and became unusable the next day, but the idea spread rapidly. About 20 years later, in 1872, with the laying of submarine cable between Nagasaki, Japan and Shanghai, China, Japan was incorporated into the global network of submarine cables. The laying of submarine cables became a key national policy at that time.

In the latter half of the 19th century, Western countries actively advanced overseas. Submarine cables were used as a tool for overseas expansion. In 1881, King Kalakaua of Hawaii, which was an independent kingdom, visited Japan and requested the construction of an underwater cable between Japan and Hawaii, but Japan, being in the middle of the political upheaval of Meiji 14 (1881), could not meet this request. At the beginning of the 20th century, 60% of the world's undersea cables were owned by the British Empire or its state-owned companies. Hawaii was the last place on the Pacific route to which the British Empire was trying to connect, but it was blocked by the United States, which had great interest in Hawaii. When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898 and the United States acquired the Philippines and Guam, it became necessary to secure a route from the west coast of the United States to Guam, and as a result Hawaii was annexed to the United States. Submarine cable installation to Hawaii became a challenge, but it was accomplished without government subsidies by businessman John W. Mackay.


Richard Danzig, Lorand Laskai


In Washington and Beijing, as a natural response to the deterioration of relations between the United States and China, “decoupling” and “disconnection” have become watchwords of the day. Interdependencies created during better times have come to be viewed as vulnerabilities, and both sides are jockeying to control the technologies that bind them. This introduction provides strategic context to the “decoupling” impulses within which the papers in this series are situated. It begins by assessing the changing premises of the US–China relationship that animate the current desire to decouple. It finds that this impulse is shaped by both countries’ historical experiences vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. It notes, however, that unlike the US approach against the Soviet Union, the US view of China lacks the strategic clarity that would make broad disconnection desirable. This is but one critical difference among many that make the lessons of the Cold War a poor fit for the present moment. The authors question how current decoupling initiatives mesh with the interdependence that continues to characterize the US–China relationship and whether decoupling can be effectively pursued with the limited tools that both countries have at their disposal for comprehensively reducing existing interdependencies. Like conjoined twins whose circulatory systems cannot be separated, the United States and China are tied together. For this reason, the authors argue in favor of an incremental approach rooted in the indeterminacy of the current moment and recognition of the fact that interdependence is likely to continue.

Great Power Conflict Has Arrived, But Asymmetric Warfare Isn’t Going Anywhere

by Kris Osborn

Here's What You Need To Remember: Army leaders currently developing next-generation tanks, infantry carriers and other armored vehicles explain that counterinsurgency remains a key part of their developmental emphasis, due in part to the reality the future war is expected to be non-linear, multi-domain and by no means clearly definable

As the threat of major, mechanized, great-power warfare continues to take center stage among Pentagon war planners and those tracking global threats, U.S. military leaders are making a point to explain that the threat of “irregular warfare” remains as serious as ever. 

A new Pentagon Irregular Warfare Annex report explains that great power threats not only pose major force-on-force threat possibilities but also have a history of engaging in unconventional war tactics

“China, Russia, and Iran are willing practitioners of campaigns of disinformation, deception, sabotage, and economic coercion, as well as proxy, guerrilla, and covert operations. This increasingly complex security environment suggests the need for a revised understanding of [information warfare] to account for its role as a component of great power competition,” an unclassified summary of the report states. 




As the United States heads to the polls in one of the most contentious presidential elections in recent history, a conflict is taking place in the background. On an almost daily basis, Americans are told that the Russian government is waging a political war on democracy. They are told that Moscow’s aims are to: erode the population’s faith in the democratic institutions, undermine the Democratic candidate, former Vice President Joseph Biden, and support the Republican incumbent, Donald Trump. Their tools are “active measures”, propaganda, disinformation and misinformation, hacks and cyberattacks, and more.

For all of the discussion of political warfare, most Americans would be forgiven for not understanding what is happening. The West finds itself in a new era of warfare or merely the latest iteration of old tools and tactics. From the “little green men” (or my personal Twitter favorite “Kremlins”) invading Crimea and gray zone or hybrid war, to China’s literal expansionist foreign policy in the South China Sea and its “lawfare”, the conception of war has become so expansive that its meaning is lost in the forest of hot-takes and analysis.

War as a concept has grown to include campaigns against drugs, poverty, obesity, and more. The lexicon of conflict inhabits every aspect of our lives, from marketing campaigns to the way we structure organizations and hierarchies—e.g. chains of command, etc.… Yet, the actual conduct of war, its art and science, is increasingly restricted to those practitioners in uniform and the small cadre of experts studying the subject. For most, the only encounter they will have with war is in a classroom where it is an event with consequences, but nothing more. Fewer and fewer Americans have regular contact with servicemembers, leading to a growing civil-military divide.