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

30 December 2021

Taiwan’s Turn – Deterring and Derailing an Existential Threat

Heino Klinck

Potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait has become an almost daily topic in mainstream reporting attracting global attention. Chinese diplomatic arrogance, military aggression, and economic coercion have demonstrated that Beijing’s leadership has jettisoned Deng Xiaoping’s historic 24-character maxim that exulted “hide our capacities and bide our time.”[1] The Department of Defense’s (DOD) just released China Military Power Report highlights that “The PLA also is likely preparing for a contingency to unify Taiwan with the PRC by force, while simultaneously deterring, delaying, or denying any third-party intervention, such as the United States and/or other like-minded partners, on Taiwan’s behalf… As part of a comprehensive campaign to pressure Taiwan and the Tsai administration, and signal its displeasure at warming Washington-Taipei ties, China has persistently conducted military operations near Taiwan and military training for a Taiwan contingency.”[2]

Is There a Kishida Doctrine?

Jeff Kingston

Prime Minister Kishida Fumio is finding it hard to emerge from the shadow of former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo (2006-07, 2012-2020). Kishida faces high expectations for deft diplomacy because he was Japan’s longest serving foreign minister (2012-2017) in the postwar era, but in reality Kishida never got much of a chance to shine because Abe was de facto foreign minister.

Kishida is probably most remembered for his role in reaching two flawed accords with South Korea in 2015. After much public jousting, Seoul and Tokyo reached agreement on UNESCO World Heritage designation for Meiji Industrial sites, contingent on Japan posting signage affirming that Koreans were forced to work at the sites. This rare feel-good moment in bilateral relations was quickly dissipated by Kishida’s comments at the press conference announcing the deal, where he asserted that being forced to work is not the same as forced labor.

Why Kishida felt compelled to rain on the parade by making this dubious distinction is uncertain, but probably he was concerned that right-wing nationalists in Japan might criticize him. Alas, the glimmer of goodwill evaporated, and Japan looked more churlish than contrite.

29 December 2021

Nepal Begins Hydropower Export to India

Santosh Sharma Poudel

In November 2021, India threw open its doors to purchase of Nepal’s electricity. This is an important milestone for Nepal as it the first time that the Himalayan country is exporting hydropower.

Nepal will export 39 MW of electricity to India under the Indian Energy Exchange (IEX). The India-Nepal Power Trade Agreement was signed in 2014 during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Nepal. Nepal is the first of India’s neighbors to participate in the IEX.

The sale of electricity to India marks the realization of a long-cherished Nepali dream of exporting hydroelectricity for national prosperity. This is a huge turnaround for the Nepali energy sector, which met more than half of its electricity needs through imports from India during peak demand in 2019.

Nepal became a power surplus country after the 456 MW Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Project came into operation in July 2021. With this, Nepal’s hydroelectricity production has reached 1,900 MW. Meanwhile, the peak-hour demand stands at around 1,500MW only. On top of that, 172 projects have secured generation licenses and construction is ongoing for a total capacity of 4,642 MW. Therefore, the supply will outpace the local demand even further in the coming years.

Taiwan would be better off alone

Derek Grossman

And then there were 14. That was the new tally of Taiwan's official diplomatic partners following Nicaragua's decision earlier this month to swap ties with Taipei for Beijing. The Solomon Islands and Kiribati did the same in 2019. But a curious fact has been overshadowed in the coverage of Taiwan's losses: Taipei has at times preemptively severed ties with partners "to uphold national dignity."

These are smart decisions. Beijing's successful poaching of Taiwan's allies is harming the island's morale and tarnishing its image as a sovereign nation. As counterintuitive as it may seem, Taiwan should further consider unilaterally shedding all remaining partners to strengthen its hand long-term against China.

The uncomfortable truth about Taiwan's remaining allies except for the Vatican, its only partner left in Europe, is that they are with small and impoverished nations like Palau or St. Lucia that are of little geostrategic value. And while Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has disavowed dollar diplomacy, that is exactly what continues to happen when Taipei competes with Beijing to keep countries in its camp.

25 December 2021

Making Indo-Pacific alliances fit for deterrence

Stephan Fruehling and Andrew O'Neil

As great-power competition intensifies, the role of deterrence and the potential for escalation have taken on renewed importance in the security calculations of Australia and other US allies. How to manage deterrence and escalation is an inherently political question. For deterrence to be effective, allies have to find ways to agree and credibly commit to what they are willing to do for each other. And nowhere is this more important than in relation to the role of US nuclear weapons.

Ahead of the highly anticipated release of the Biden administration’s nuclear posture review in early 2022, attention has turned to the role that allies play in US nuclear policy. Recent reporting indicates that US allies in Europe and the Indo-Pacific have pushed back against moves by Washington to limit, in declaratory terms, the circumstances in which it would consider using nuclear weapons.

While in the past some US allies expressed sympathy for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, none today is willing to sign it, as their focus has turned to the challenges of deterrence and escalation in Europe and the Indo-Pacific. However, allies can’t afford to simply react to changes in US policy. They must actively prepare for and seek to manage escalation in a broader geostrategic, technological and political context.

23 December 2021

Is There Any Solution to Myanmar’s Rohingya Crisis?

Sebastian Strangio

In the 10 months since the Myanmar military’s seizure of power tipped the nation into a toxic, nationwide political emergency, another serious crisis – that facing the Rohingya refugees of Bangladesh – has largely been consigned to the margins of international attention.

More than 1 million mostly Muslim Rohingya civilians have been entrapped, limbo-like, in the rambling refugee camps that surround the town of Cox’s Bazar in southeastern Bangladesh, since fleeing in scorched-earth military offensives in Myanmar’s Rakhine State in 2016 and 2017. While a solution was remote even before the coup, the new crisis has further compounded their troubles, complicating any resolution to the refugee emergency, while also distracting international attention away from what might be done to resolve it.

A special rapporteur of the United Nations said on Sunday that despite the country’s current troubles, the world should not forget the massive humanitarian crisis next door in Bangladesh, nor the Myanmar armed forces’ ultimate responsibility for creating it.

17 December 2021

AIIB In Indonesia: How Far Has It Come? – OpEd

M Habib Pashya

Indonesian President, Joko Widodo has big plans for Indonesia to make infrastructure a top priority. For example, building ports, railroads, and roads to boost the country’s economic growth up to 7 percent. To achieve this, Indonesia attracted China as one of the main partners.

In the Jokowi era, the economic relations between Jakarta and Beijing were quite strong. As reported by the Indonesian Investment Coordinating Board, investment from China to Indonesia, including flows from Hong Kong, rose 11% to $8.4 billion from 2020. Construction of projects such as the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed rail to be the main mega project.

However, the Chinese government began making a big offer to Indonesia through the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). According to reports, the Bank has almost 30% of its funding backed by China. In 2014 in Beijing, Yudi Pramadi, Head of Communication and Information at the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Indonesia, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with 21 other countries. In the deal, AIIB would supported infrastructure development in Indonesia such as energy, transport, telecommunications, agriculture and rural infrastructure, sanitation, environment, logistics and other sectors,

10 December 2021

Bangladesh’s Identity Crisis: To Be or Not to Be Secular

Shafi Md Mostofa

In a couple of weeks, Bangladesh will celebrate the golden jubilee of its victory in the liberation war against Pakistan. Fifty years have passed since it became independent, and secular nationalist forces gained the upper hand over religious ones in the war. However, Bangladesh has not been able to secure its secularism.

Debates about the country’s secular national identity, a founding principle of the state, persist to date. Some argue that secularism was imposed on the country from above. According to this argument, political pressure, especially from India due to its support for Bangladesh during the liberation war, played an important role in determining Bangladesh’s secular identity. But also, as several scholars have argued, secularism became the country’s founding principle due to the secular-linguistic Bengali nationalistic movement in the 1947-71 period.

Unlike the Western conception of secularism, where the state is separate or distances itself from the church/religion, Bangladeshi secularism translates into Dharmanirapekkhata (religious neutrality). The Bangladeshi state does not disassociate itself from religion; rather it accepts the role of religion in public spheres. And in the eyes of the state all religions are equal.

5 December 2021

Bangladesh’s Nuclear Power Plant: Economic Blackhole or Energy Backbone?

Hussain Shazzad

Bangladesh aspires to join the prestigious “nuclear club” of 31 nations by embarking on the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant (R-NPP) – the most ambitious project ever undertaken in the country’s development history. Originally conceived in 1961, even before the birth of Bangladesh, this maiden nuclear plant is now at the final stage to kick-off. Although the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expressed deep satisfaction with the safety measures adopted by Bangladesh, critics oppose this nuclear move, raising concerns over energy costs, environmental issues, management and safety issues. Some people dubbed this project a “white elephant” and “premature” while others termed it as a “grand fantasy.”

How Safe Is R-NPP?

Despite having the potential to become a major player in the future energy mix, nuclear energy has a negative image because of its association with nuclear weapons, Cold War propaganda, radioactive waste, and two high-profile nuclear accidents, Chernobyl and Fukushima.

It’s worth looking at those previous accidents in more detail. The Chernobyl accident occurred because of an unusual experiment by some engineers who were neither familiar with its safety system nor had enough knowledge on reactor physics and engineering. The R-NPP will solely be a power generation facility, and no experiment of any kind will be allowed. Meanwhile, the Fukushima accident was triggered by a tsunami. Rooppur is less vulnerable to such massive natural disasters. Besides, the nuclear industry is now banking on next-generation technologies – e.g., Small Modular Reactors – that make nuclear power plants safer than before. Today’s regulatory requirements mean that plants should be built in a way that even if there is any accident it must be limited to the plant.

26 November 2021

The Benefits of Expanding the India-Russia Partnership in Southeast Asia

Don McLain Gill

As China’s steady accumulation of relative power is getting too close for comfort for its neighbors in Southeast Asia, extra-regional alignments are seen to be a pivotal element for the smaller countries. However, as China continues to be embroiled in a power competition with the United States, Southeast Asian countries have also been wary of using the U.S. as a sole counterweight in the region. It is with this in mind that the attention of these countries has shifted toward the potential roles of Russia and India.

The presence of both countries has been widely accepted and welcomed by the Southeast Asian countries. In fact, there is a great desire among them to encourage New Delhi and Moscow to enhance their involvement in the region. However, with certain limits to each country’s individual Southeast Asian policy, a recalibration can be made toward a more collective approach.

Recently, there have been a series of noteworthy developments in the engagements of both countries in Southeast Asia. During the 10th ASEAN Economic Ministers-Russia Consultations in September, Russia and ASEAN expressed their collective desire enhance and broaden the scope of their cooperation in the economic sphere. This also led to the adoption of a revised ASEAN-Russia Trade and Investment Cooperation Work Program for the period encompassing 2021-2025.

Choose a side, China tells Taiwan firms as it punishes conglomerate

TAIPEI, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Taiwan firms operating in China need to draw a line between themselves and independence supporters, China's government said on Monday after punishing a major Taiwanese firm ostensibly for business violations.

China, which claims democratically-ruled Taiwan as its own territory, has heaped pressure on the island to accept Beijing's rule. It said earlier this month it would hold those who support the island's formal independence, including companies, criminally liable.

China's official Xinhua news agency said early on Monday that law enforcement agencies across China had punished Taiwan's Far Eastern Group, which has interests ranging from hotels to petrochemicals, for a series of problems, from tax to fire safety, and that the investigation was continuing.

In a statement late on Monday answering a question on whether the move was linked to the government's targeting of "stubbornly pro-Taiwan independence" forces, China's Taiwan Affairs Office did not draw a direct link, repeating Xinhua's accusations against the company.

25 November 2021

Kissinger doesn’t see China as an immediate military threat to Taiwan


Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said Sunday that even though China continues to covet Taiwan, he doesn’t expect China to launch an invasion of the island.

“I don't expect an all-out attack on Taiwan in, say, a 10-year period, which is as far as I can see,” Kissinger said on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS.”

Discussing President Joe Biden’s virtual summit last week with President Xi Jinping, Kissinger noted that the situation surrounding Taiwan is one that hadn’t changed much since he and President Richard Nixon established a connection with China in the early 1970s.

“I believe that the ultimate joining of Taiwan and China, the ultimate creation of one China, is the objective of Chinese policy,” Kissinger told Zakaria, “as it has been since the creation of the current regime and that it probably would be in any Chinese government since Taiwan has been considered a historic part of China that was taken away by Japan, by force. That was exactly the situation Nixon and I faced when we first began contact with China.“

24 November 2021

As Soldiers Abandon Notorious Myanmar Army, a Morale Crisis Looms

Sui-Lee Wee

Aung Myo Htet had always dreamed of being a soldier, and had attained the rank of captain. But when he joined the army in Myanmar, he had thought he would be defending his country, not fighting — and losing — pitched battles against his own countrymen.

In June, he was sent to the front lines in Kayah State to subdue resistance fighters and armed protesters opposing the generals who seized power in a February coup. Three of his fellow soldiers were killed, said Aung Myo Htet, 32.

“Seeing the casualties on our side made me feel so sad,” he said. “We were fighting and sacrificing ourselves for the general’s sake and not for the country.”

On Oct. 7, he walked off his base and joined the country’s Civil Disobedience Movement, a nationwide effort aimed at restoring democracy and bringing down Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the man behind the coup. At least 2,000 other soldiers and police officers have done the same, part of a broader campaign to weaken the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s most notorious institution.

Minorities under attack in Bangladesh


Last month, a series of attacks on religious minorities in Bangladesh shook the country’s typically pluralist outlook. The violence began after a Facebook post from Comilla district in the southeast of the country alleged that the Quran, the holy book for Muslims, had been desecrated at a Hindu Durga Puja festival site. The allegation was broadcast live and rumours quickly spread.

According to a local newspaper report, more than 100 Hindu temples, festival sites, shops, and homes were attacked. Seven people were killed, and a Buddhist monastery at the country’s southwest was also set on fire. Police later arrested a man they said had confessed to having deliberately left a copy of the Quran at the Hindu festival site.

The attacks also exacerbated religious tensions in neighbouring India, making international headlines. People in favour of India’s controversial citizenship act, which has been dubbed an anti-Muslim law for offering amnesty to non-Muslim irregular immigrants from neighbouring countries, cited the attacks in Bangladesh as a justification for the law.

23 November 2021

Vietnam Needs to Bolster Its ‘Soft Balancing’ Against China

Pham Ngoc Minh Trang

“We reaffirmed that the 1982 UNCLOS is the basis for determining maritime entitlements, sovereign rights, jurisdiction and legitimate interests over maritime zones, and the 1982 UNCLOS sets out the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out.”

Since 1992, the year ASEAN first issued a Declaration on the South China Sea, the sentence above has only appeared in the 36th and 37th ASEAN Summit Chairman’s Statements in 2020 – when Vietnam was the chair of the organization.

While other ASEAN countries prefer to merely mention the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in their Chairman’s Statements, Vietnam was more decisive in confirming the role of UNCLOS as a solid and comprehensive basis for establishing a legal maritime order. This resolute position runs counter to China’s rhetoric when it comes to the South China Sea dispute.

22 November 2021

China's move on Taiwan is all but inevitable unless Biden stops it


Deception and surprise are supposedly the stock-in-trade of China’s way of war, as famously articulated by the legendary ancient sage, Sun Tzu. In the modern era, communist and erstwhile communist powers — China, the Soviet Union, North Korea, North Vietnam, Serbia under Milosevic, and Vladimir Putin’s Russia — consistently have put that teaching into practice.

Of course, duplicity in the service of aggression is not the exclusive domain of communist powers, as the tyrannical raging of Nazi Germany and Imperialist Japan demonstrated. But those powers are long gone, whereas China under Xi Jinping and autocratic Russia under Putin are, regrettably, still very much with us, as are their partners in international crime, North Korea and Iran.

So, Washington and the West, and those countries that rely on them — especially Taiwan — should be particularly on alert now that Beijing and Moscow have assured the world that all is calm in their regions and that talk of resurgent cold wars, let alone hot ones, should be put aside as historically outmoded thinking and self-serving histrionics. No doubt, Xi repeated that assurance to President Biden when they spoke last night.

21 November 2021

Pentagon Quietly Puts More Troops in Taiwan

Jack Detsch

The Biden administration added more U.S. troops to Taiwan over the past few months, according to newly published Defense Department data, leaving nearly 40 troops on the embattled island to protect the de facto U.S. embassy and train Taiwanese troops.

The small but steadily growing U.S. footprint—now nearly twice as big as last year—could represent increased concern in the White House and the Pentagon over the island’s fate. While most military officials don’t believe China has made the decision to invade just yet, as Beijing builds up its amphibious forces and hypersonic missiles to potentially soften up Taiwan’s defenses, the temperature has continued to rise, especially after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s virtual coronation in a major party plenum this month. Chinese officials are increasingly outspoken about restoring what they see as a renegade province—by any measure.

“Achieving China’s complete reunification is an aspiration shared by all sons and daughters of the Chinese nation. We will strive for the prospect of peaceful reunification with utmost sincerity and efforts. That said, should the separatist forces for ‘Taiwan independence’ provoke us, force our hands, or even cross the red line, we will be compelled to take resolute measures,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said this week.

19 November 2021

The Taiwan Question: How to Think About Deterrence Now

Keith B. Payne

A prominent deterrence challenge now confronting Washington is how to deter China from resolving the Taiwan Question forcefully. There are many nuances to the Taiwan Question and the U.S. deterrence challenge involved, but the fundamental deterrence question is: can the United States now deter the Communist Party of China (CCP) from deciding to forcefully change the status quo on Taiwan, i.e., from removing the current democratically-elected governing authority and installing the CCP’s own repressive governing authority instead? China’s recent harsh repression in Hong Kong in violation of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration looms large in the background.

Deterrence success in this regard is not to end in any definitive sense China’s desire to unite Taiwan with the Chinese mainland; that is a much heavier political burden than deterrence can or should be expected to bear. But, effective U.S. deterrence in this case is for the Chinese leadership to conclude, when considering its options for Taiwan, that the risks/costs of moving against Taiwan forcefully are intolerable compared to the relative greater safety of deciding, “not this year.” Deterrence surely cannot solve all geopolitical problems, but it may be able to accomplish that much.

18 November 2021

The young generation risking all to topple the Myanmar junta


The knife that carved through Gue Gue’s abdomen wasn’t exactly meant for pulling out her inflamed appendix. But it was the only one available in the sweltering jungle clinic, a bumpy ride over mountainous terrain from her guerrilla training camp.

There was no option for general anesthesia to put her under, so Gue Gue was conscious for the operation. The former tour guide, a stylish 26-year-old who listed her interests on Facebook as “Traveling, Adaptive Hiking, Dance, Writing, Gymnastics, Fashion Photography, Listening to Music, and Reading,” tried to keep her mind focused on all the work she had yet to do and not the surgery. “They were cutting the muscle like we are chopping pork,” said a friend who was there.

Gue Gue had no regrets, she said later, except about the jagged red mark left behind. “I really don’t want any scars!” she said, laughing. “After the revolution, I’ll go and remove my scar with a laser.”

17 November 2021

Taiwan Is Safe Until at Least 2027, but with One Big Caveat

Derek Grossman

Six years. That is how long Taiwan might have left before suffering a Chinese military attack. At least that was the estimate according to outgoing commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral Philip Davidson, back in March during open Congressional testimony.

Since then, observers have seized on Davidson's comments—which apparently reference the 100th anniversary of the founding of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) in 2027 as an event worth celebrating with the conquest of Taiwan—to support their respective positions on whether Beijing is poised to make a dangerous move soon.

For those aligning with Davidson's view, the unprecedented number of warplanes challenging Taiwan in its air defense identification zone, nearly 150 over the first few days of last month, is the latest proof that something is afoot.

For the deniers, it is easy to explain away the recent air incursions as simply being part and parcel of Beijing's general uptick in military assertiveness aimed at deterring further deepening in U.S.-Taiwan relations.