Peering into the gloom of East Asia’s future

An AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter flies toward Ie Shima Training Facility before executing forward air controller airborne training, 16 January 2014. (Photo: US Marine Corps/ Lance Cpl. Stephen D. Himes).

Author: Ron Huisken, ANU

The first pivot to Asia in recent times was an intellectual one in the years immediately following the end of the Cold War. When the academic and policy world pondered an international landscape devoid of the superpower standoff, two points of strong consensus emerged fairly quickly. First, the end of the Cold War made the world much safer. Second, within this generally positive assessment, East Asia loomed as the region likely to experience both the strongest economic growth and the greatest relative turbulence on the security front. Read more…

China should lead restart of Six-Party Talks

Envoys from Russia, US, North Korea, Japan, China and South Korea meet at the beginning of a round of six-party talks in Beijing on 8 December 2008. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Ron Huisken, ANU

As North Korea’s closest ally, China should convince Pyongyang to share responsibility for the Six-Party Talks with Seoul.

North Korea’s fierce campaign of belligerent posturing since late 2012 — which included a third nuclear test and another missile test — for the first time in a very long time yielded absolutely nothing in return: no economic gifts, no calming exchange of diplomatic envoys. The United States and South Korea responded with some pointed reminders of their countervailing power but, on the whole, Pyongyang was confronted with the fact that one of its favourite tactics no longer yielded the economic and political returns it had come to expect.  Read more…

North Korea’s nuclear test

North Koreans bow in front of the statues of late North Korean leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il at Mansu Hill, Pyongyang (Photo: AAP).

Author: Ron Huisken, ANU

Pyongyang’s third nuclear test, conducted on 13 February 2013, sparked a flurry of commentary on what to do next.

All the familiar and varied themes of response have been refreshed — toughen the sanctions and accelerate countermeasures (especially against ballistic missiles), engage North Korea unreservedly, Read more…

Six-Party Talks, anyone?

An armed Chinese policeman guards the North Korean Embassy in Beijing where North Korea and the United States held nuclear talks on the morning of 23 February 2012. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Ron Huisken, ANU

The DPRK presents itself as a security tangle that needs to be made a top priority, particularly by the states of the Asia Pacific.

Read more…

The Pentagon’s perspective on China

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, left, and Chinese Gen. Chen Bingde during bilateral talks at the Pentagon. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Ron Huisken, ANU

In 1996, President Clinton told a joint sitting of the Australian Parliament that ‘the way [China] defines its greatness for the future will help decide whether the next century is one of conflict or cooperation’.

Fifteen years on, China’s trajectory has unmistakably lived up to Clinton’s expectations of ‘greatness’. Read more…

North Korea: Future prospects for the Six-Party talks

South Korean Christians shout slogans and wave national flags during a rally against the North Korea nuclear program and succession in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2011. (AAP)

Author: Ron Huisken, ANU

Political manoeuvering aimed at resuming the Six-Party Talks process on reversing North Korea’s nuclear weapon program is intensifying following a Russia-DPRK summit in August 2011.

Washington’s and Seoul’s experience with the DPRK since its nuclear objectives were first suspected has left scar tissue, and new ideas and initiatives have been conspicuously absent recently. Exploratory moves on re-engagement are laden with caution and scepticism.

Read more…

US military bases in Australia: Don’t circle the wagons yet

Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd and the United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton prepare to speak at a news conference in Melbourne, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2010. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Ron Huisken, ANU

In a recent essay, Toshi Yoshihara laid out a strong, coherent case for a US military presence in Australia far more substantive than anything either country has contemplated since WW2.

The comment was triggered by an on-going US review of its international military posture and the agreement at the 2010 Australia-US ministerial talks for a joint working group to examine options for broader US access to Australian facilities and bases. Read more…

China’s Defence White Paper in brief

A Chinese military band conductor rehearses on the final day of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Sunday, March 14, 2010. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Ron Huisken, ANU

China has published defence white papers every even year since 2000. The sixth in this series appeared at the end of March 2011: ‘China’s National Defence in 2010.’

The format is basically the same as in past years, and a great deal of the language on particular issues remains the same or very similar. The 2010 paper has been streamlined (10 sub-headings versus 15 plus appendices in the past) and the odd issue has been placed in a different context. Read more…

US-China relations: the outlook for harmony

The US flag flies in Tiananmen Square before a visit by President Obama. Will the US remain substantively and comprehensively engaged in East Asia as it has or will it give way to new East Asian Hegemon? (Photo: AAP)

Author: Ron Huisken, ANU

Nation states are a complicated and imperfect species. They are prone to say and do things that surprise other states (and sometimes their own citizens). One of the harder jobs for policy analysts is to decide what constitutes the inevitable ‘noise’ of international relations: the tactical adjustments, someone speaking out of turn, or a simple policy miscue.

The rise of China has made this a progressively more acute challenge for most countries but especially those in the Asia Pacific. Read more…

Gillard-Obama meeting gets into alliance management

Author: Ron Huisken, ANU

Australia’s Prime Minister Gillard has not contested the view that she is far more comfortable dealing with her domestic agenda than playing in the foreign affairs arena (even setting aside how the Rudd factor might play into this preference).

But she has to do both and the more quickly she learns the ropes and can judge when and on what she needs to reach for her passport the better. Read more…

China’s J-20: Challenger or pretender?

A Chinese J20 stealth plane is seen after finishing a runway test in Chengdu, southwest China, on 5 January 2011. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Ron Huisken, ANU

China recently unveiled a new fighter aircraft with stealth characteristics undergoing runway tests. The following day it flew for about 18 minutes, reportedly its maiden flight.

This was newsworthy for several reasons; for one thing, China is very secretive, especially about weapon systems still under development. For another, this first sighting of the aircraft occurred on the eve of a visit to China by US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, a visit that heralded the resumption of high-level military dialogue after a hiatus of more than a year. Read more…

China and the DPRK: With friends like these….

Author: Ron Huisken, ANU

China’s posture toward the DPRK is under scrutiny.  Over recent years, a growing number of observers have concluded that, aside from the question of how much leverage China had over Pyongyang, stopping the DPRK’s nuclear program was not China’s first priority (as it was for the ROK, Japan and the US).

Beijing appeared to attach primary importance to preserving the status quo on the Korean peninsula, that is, an enduring DPRK. Beijing’s eventual tolerance of the DPRK’s nuclear tests, its continued experiments with long-range ballistic missiles, and its nuclear and missile export activities with Iran and Syria constituted the primary evidence for this conclusion. Read more…

ADMM Plus cooperates on security and defence issues

Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith, left, Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie, center, Indian Defense Minister Shri AK Antony attend the closing remarks of the first ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting Plus (ADMM Plus) in Hanoi, Vietnam on October 12, 2010 (Photo: AP)

Author: Ron Huisken, ANU

The first meeting of Defence Ministers from ASEAN, plus the US, China, Russia, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, was held in Hanoi on October 12.  Judging from the exceedingly anodyne joint declaration, ASEAN was content with the fact of the meeting. And that is not unreasonable. Getting these 18 defence ministers together is no small feat: Collectively, they ‘command’ defence resources comparable to the members of NATO, and unlike NATO, there is no past war or crisis or common threat to drive them together.

The ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM) is itself a recent creation. Read more…