Rebalancing as the Rorschach inkblot test

US Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the joint opening session of the US China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing, China, 9 July 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Brad Glosserman, Pacific Forum CSIS

Since it was first announced in late 2011, the US rebalance to Asia has become the great foreign policy ‘Rorschach test’ — what one sees in the rebalance says more about the observer than it does about the policy itself.

One school sees the rebalance as an effort to realise the goals laid out in President Obama’s 2009 National Security Strategy: it aims to tap the dynamism of the world’s most productive region to revitalise the US economy, sapped by a decade of war. Read more…

The future of US–Japan military exercises

US Navy FA-18 Hornets cram the flight deck of the USS George Washington during a joint military exercise with Japan in the Pacific Ocean, 28 November 2013. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Tiago Mauricio, Pacific Forum CSIS

Military exercises play an important role in strengthening America’s extended deterrence in Northeast Asia. Given the transformations in the regional strategic environment, and budgetary constraints for the US and some of its allies, multinational military exercises are particularly alluring for their ability to bolster deterrence on the cheap. Read more…

The flawed US indictment of Chinese hackers

Press material displayed at the Justice Department in Washington before a press conference by US Attorney General Eric Holder to announce charges of economic espionage and trade secret theft against five Chinese military officers. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Claude Barfield, AEI

On 19 May, the US charged five Chinese army officers with hacking into American companies in the first cyber-espionage case of its kind. In defending the administration’s actions, its lead spokesman, Assistant Attorney General John Carlin, adopted an indignant, highly moral tone, alleging that Unit 61398 ‘stole information particularly beneficial to Chinese companies and took communications that would provide competitors with key insight into the strategies and vulnerabilities of the victims…This is not conduct that responsible nations within the global community should tolerate’. Read more…

Can the US tone down to ASEAN’s tune?

President Barack Obama speaks to youth from across the member countries of ASEAN as part of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 27 April 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza).

Author: Andrew Chubb, UWA

This month’s Sino–Vietnamese confrontation in the South China Sea, which began when China unilaterally sent a large oil drilling platform to disputed waters 220 kilometres from the Vietnamese coast, raises the question of how to deter unilateral provocations in maritime East Asia.

The US response was swift and public. Read more…

China responds to Japan–US ‘sushi’ diplomacy

Effigies of Shinzo Abe and Barack Obama are displayed at a May Day event in Japan. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Aurelia George Mulgan, UNSW Canberra

The Chinese media exhaustively covered Obama’s visit to Japan on 23–25 April. There were references to the exorbitant cost of the Abe–Obama sushi dinner and the ¥25 million worth of entertainment laid on by Prime Minister Abe. But it was Obama’s verbal guarantees regarding the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands that attracted the most attention. Read more…

Obama visit fails to strengthen US–Japan trust

President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands at the conclusion of their joint news conference at the Akasaka State Guest House in Tokyo, 24 April 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Kazuhiko Togo, Kyoto Sangyo University

President Obama’s visit to Japan from April 23-25 was important for US-Japan alliance relations.

But did the visit genuinely strengthen trust between Japan and the United States? A number of outstanding problems indicates that there is room for a great deal of improvement. Read more…

A China–US alliance

US First Lady Michelle Obama greets Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, China, on a visit aimed at boosting diplomatic goodwill, 21 March, 2014. The Obama–Xi meeting in California last June took the intimacy of the relationship to a new height. (Official White House Photo/Amanda Lucidon).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The idea that the United States and China could entertain an alliance relationship might today seem preposterous. It hasn’t always been thus. And the big step by the new leadership in Beijing last year was to elevate the relationship with Washington to a new level of strategic importance, with the Obama–Xi meeting in California last June taking the intimacy of the relationship to a new height. Read more…

Role reversal: how Japan became America’s ally and China fell from grace

President Barack Obama and Emperor Akihito during a banquet in honour of the visiting American leader at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Following WWII, Japan became a US ally, and Japan and China’s positions vis-à-vis the US were reversed (Photo: AAP).

Author: Jean-Pierre Lehmann, IMD

Ask ‘who were the allies in WWII?’ and the answer will likely be: ‘the US, the USSR and Britain’. The fourth ally, China, has been airbrushed from history.

Yet China fought valiantly and suffered hugely. Had the Chinese not kept up the war with Japan in the Pacific, the US would not have been able to concentrate its military efforts on the Atlantic. Read more…

Why Obama should abandon the pivot

US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet at the residence of the US ambassador in The Hague on 24 March 2014 on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Hugh White, ANU

President Obama faced a stark choice when he went to Japan last week. Either he had to commit himself and his country unambiguously to supporting Japan militarily over the Senkakus/Diaoyus, or he had to accept that the ‘pivot’ — and by extension his whole foreign policy and US leadership in Asia — was no longer credible. Read more…

Obama’s statement on the Senkakus/Diaoyus: why so bold?

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hold a joint press conference at Akasaka Palace in Tokyo, Japan, April 2014. Obama declared that the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands are covered under Article 5 of the Japan–US security treaty. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy).

Author: Bhubhindar Singh, RSIS

The main talking point of President Barack Obama’s visit to Japan on 23–24 April was his declaration that the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands are covered under Article 5 of the Japan–US security treaty. Article 5 of the treaty states the two countries will act to meet the common danger of an attack against ‘territories under the administration of Japan’. Read more…

The principles for governing international trade

US President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speak at a joint conference after holding their summit meeting in Tokyo on 24 April 2014. Obama failed to reach a conclusion or agreement with Abe on the TPP. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The success of President Obama’s swing through Japan on his Asia trip last week, he is supposed to have told Prime Minister Abe in The Hague recently, would be measured by whether it delivered a satisfactory conclusion to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations between Washington and Tokyo. On that metric, the trip was an abject failure. There was no conclusion or agreement. Read more…

US dreams of energy independence

A petrochemical plant in Saudi Arabia. Although the ‘shale energy revolution’ and a huge increase in Canadian oil imports has significantly altered the composition of the US imports portfolio, Saudi Arabia and the wider Persian Gulf today still contribute around 20 per cent. (Photo: Wiki Commons/SECL).

Author: Ned Manning, Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada

When Americans talk about ‘energy independence’ they are talking about oil and the Middle East. Forecasts that the US may become close to energy self-sufficient in net terms by 2035 have once again made this verbal icon of US energy policy a popular ‘sound bite’. But its use is both inaccurate and misleading, and without a seismic shift in American’s attitude towards transport, it is fundamentally unachievable. Read more…

Obama visits a troubled East Asia

US President Barack Obama waves as he gets off Air Force One upon his arrival at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on 23 April 2014.  (Photo: AAP)

Author: Tobias Harris, Teneo Intelligence

President Barack Obama’s state visit to Japan on 23–25 April comes at a fraught moment for the US–Japan relationship.

The cautious US response first to China’s declaration of an air defence identification zone in November and then to Russia’s annexation of Crimea have Japanese elites concerned about what the US would do if China were to seize the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. Read more…

US to Japan, South Korea: stop arguing and get on with it

Shinto priests walk out from the outer shrine after they administer a Shinto rite Kiyoharai on the first day of the three-day spring festival at the controversial Yasukuni war shrine in Tokyo on 21 April 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Andrew Horvat, Tokyo

On 6 March, the Obama administration sent a strong message to Japan and South Korea to work out their differences over history. Speaking on Japanese television, US Ambassador to Tokyo Caroline Kennedy said, ‘I’m sure President Obama will be very, very happy with the progress they will make’.

Read more…

The evolution of Sino–American competition in Myanmar

US President Barack Obama delivers remarks after a meeting with Myanmar President Thein Sein in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 20 May 2013. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Adam P. MacDonald, Halifax

For decades, China has been Myanmar’s principal international partner. In the years preceding Myanmar’s opening up, China dominated Myanmar’s foreign discourse as an important economic and military partner, and a source of international diplomatic protection due to the diplomatic isolation and widespread sanctions imposed on Myanmar by the West, especially after the 1988 coup. Read more…