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…

Challenges for the US-Japan alliance in a changing Asia

A unit of the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force honor guards hold US and Japan national flags. US President Barack Obama will visit Tokyo this week and the current security situation in East Asia underscores the importance of maintaining and strengthening US-Japan alliance cooperation. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Hitoshi Tanaka, JCIE

Tokyo will welcome US President Barack Obama this week at a key moment in US-Japan relations. The challenging nature of the current security situation in East Asia underscores the importance of maintaining and strengthening US-Japan alliance cooperation. The risk of North Korean military provocation remains ever-present, and China is becoming increasingly assertive in its maritime activities in the East and South China Seas. Read more…

US puts the Asian ‘pivot’ into pictures

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel watches a flight demonstration of MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor V/STOL aircraft on the flight deck of the USS Anchorage during a tour with his counterparts from Southeast Asia, Secretary General of ASEAN Secretariat Le Luong Minh and Defense Minister of Singapore Ng Eng Hen. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Dean, ANU

The ‘rebalance’ to the Asia Pacific is alive and well according to the recently released US Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). If a picture tells a thousand words then the United States Department of Defense’s (DoD) latest strategic policy document has some interesting things to say. Eight of the 22 photos in the document focus on the region, and this outstrips the US homeland — the focus of overall US strategy. Read more…

Embrace China, but for just a moment

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao engage in talks at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, December 2013. Despite extremely close Sino-Australian economic relations, Bishop has argued that the US is Australia’s most important economic partner. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Derek Scissors, AEI

Shiro Armstrong recently claimed in these pages that China is Australia’s most important economic partner, indicting Australian government endorsement of the US for the position. The defence of the US offered by Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop and others is unsatisfying, and the case for China is reasonable. However, Australians and others should be mindful that China’s current importance is probably transient and there are subtle reasons to regard the US as Australia’s key partner. Read more…

Strategic ambiguity a hazard for Asian security

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks during a news conference on the flight deck of the USS Anchorage after a tour at Pearl Harbour with his counterparts from Southeast Asia. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Richard A. Bitzinger, NTU

One of the most dangerous challenges facing the Asia Pacific is ambiguity — particularly strategic ambiguity on the part of the two most important players in Asian security, the United States and China. How these two nations engage with each other is ultimately of paramount importance to regional security. Therefore, it is crucial that they make their intentions crystal clear, not only to each other but to the other Asia Pacific nations as well. Read more…

Why 2014 in Asia will not be a repeat of 1914 in Europe

A Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force surveillance plane flies over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea. Commentators suggest that the dispute between Japan and China will escalate into events similar to those in Europe that led to World War I. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Paul Dibb, ANU

The Jeremiah prophets are coming out of the woodwork to predict that there will be an outbreak of war between the major powers in Asia, just like in Europe 100 years ago. The idea is that a rising China will inevitably go to war with the United States, either directly or through conflict with Japan. Read more…

Telcos and the new protectionism

Visitors sit during the Mobile World Congress on 26 February 2014. The Congress saw a push to get mobile devices cheap enough to reach emerging markets without sacrificing performance. Chinese telecoms giants Huawei and ZTE who participated in the Congress have been barred from the United States ostensibly over cyber security concerns. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The telecommunications sector is rightly seen as critical infrastructure to a country’s economic development and competitiveness. It is at the heart of modern production systems and the efficient delivery of a whole range of services, both public and private, to people in countries all around the world. The revolution of the industry over the past half century has accelerated the pace of global economic integration Read more…

China–US telco wars

In the US, China’s Huawei has been barred over cyber security concerns, while in China big US telecommunications companies have seen a drop in sales revenues following NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s revelation that US telecommunication companies were engaged in systematic espionage. The much-publicised report by the US House Intelligence Committee against Huawei has been heavily criticised for being weak on evidence. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Justin Li, ICE

In the early 1960s, the National Security Agency (NSA) of the United States was able to intercept Cuban telephone signals with help from US telecommunications giant RCA International, who built Cuba’s telephone system in 1959.

The company provided the CIA and NSA with the schematics of the Cuban communication system and details about the operating parameters of the equipment Read more…

Domestic politics slow down Obama’s ‘fast track’ plan to free trade

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye talks to US President Barack Obama at a summit meeting at the White House on 7 May 2013. South Korea is considering joining the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership for which President Barack Obama hopes to conclude negotiations expeditiously. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Claude Barfield, AEI

Trade policy stands at the intersection of a nation’s diplomatic and security strategies and its broad economic goals. Though not necessarily in conflict, security imperatives and economic realities exist in two very different universes, inhabited by very different constituencies and interest groups. The recent history of America’s free-trade agreements with Korea and Colombia are telling examples of the uneasy juxtaposition of diplomatic priorities with domestic economic interests. Read more…

Cooling the Cold War mindset in Asia

US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping wave as they walk at the Annenberg Retreat, California. Although the political-security community has been hinting at a new Cold War in East Asia, the US-China leadership dialogue is a powerful symbol of quite the opposite stream in both US and Chinese thinking. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

There has been a tad elevation in the excitement of the political-security community about drawing lines in the sand around China’s rise and the interests of the United States and its allies in recent months, with more than a hint that a new Cold War is emerging in East Asia along the lines of that in earlier times between the old Soviet Union and the Western bloc. Read more…

When a Cold War in East Asia is not a Cold War

Gary Locke, outgoing US ambassador to China, speaks during a press conference held at the US Embassy in Beijing, China, on 27 February 2014. Locke presided over huge growth in economic ties as well as US–China tensions during a pair of major incidents that had threatened ties between the nations. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Stephan Frühling, ANU

In recent months, it has become fashionable to describe the emerging strategic rivalry between China and the US and its allies as a new Cold War — even rival trade negotiations are likened to an ‘economic Cold War’. And yet, there have been other great power conflicts and rivalries before. Is the Cold War really a useful paradigm for the tensions caused by China’s rise — and if so, what are its most relevant lessons for East Asia today? Read more…

What Baucus’ departure means for the US trade agenda

Democratic Senator from Montana Max Baucus speaks with members of the news media outside the Senate chamber after he was confirmed by the Senate to be the new US Ambassador to China, on 6 February 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: John VerWey, AEI

The departure of Senator Max Baucus to be the US ambassador to China is a major blow to the US trade agenda. 

First elected in 1978 and Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee since 2007, Baucus led a panel with broad jurisdiction over tax policy, health care and international trade agreements, and was instrumental in the passage of the 2010 health reform law. Read more…