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…

Why China stands to benefit from ambiguity on Crimea

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping (L) take part in video conference in Sochi, Russia, in February 2014 (Photo: AAP).

Author: Maria Repnikova, Asan Institute for Policy Studies and Georgetown University

From the outset of the Russia–Ukraine escalation, Russian official sources claimed to have secured China’s support. Most recently, following Russia’s official annexation of Crimea, President Vladimir Putin thanked China and India, which abstained from the UN Security Council vote condemning Russia.

In reality, however, Russia’s projection of China’s stance in this crisis has been misconstrued, as China consistently favoured strategic ambiguity Read more…

India’s Look East policy in need of a relook

Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh listens during the 7th East Asia Summit plenary session as part of the 21st ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh, November 2012. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Tridivesh Singh Maini, New Delhi

Does India’s foreign policy suffer from alack of consistent and innovative outreach policies in Southeast Asia?

At a recent East-West Centre conference in Yangon, most participants seemed to feel the answer was yes. Such criticisms are worth mentioning because India’s immediate neighbours, such as Nepal and Sri Lanka often complain that New Delhi intervenes a touch too much in their internal affairs. Some go so far as to argue that China, in spite of being more powerful than India, does not exhibit the same hegemonistic tendencies. Read more…

Family reunions belie future of the Korean peninsula

North and South Korean family hold hands at a bus as they leave after the inter-Korean family reunion meeting at Mount Kumgang resort, North Korea, 25 February 2014. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Andrew Kwon, Lowy Institute for International Policy/Center for Strategic and International Studies

The Republic of Korea (ROK) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) held their first family reunions in three years on 20 February 2014. But the event does not hail the beginning of a grand renewal in relations — the world has been here before and the important underlying factors that have undermined enhanced relations before, as highlighted by the recent exchange of fire along the western maritime border, remain unchanged. 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…

Is Vietnam’s bamboo diplomacy threatened by pandas?

Russian President Vladimir Putin talks with Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang as they attend the cooperation signing ceremony between Russia and Vietnam at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam in November 2013 (Photo: AAP).

Author: Thuy T. Do, ANU

Vietnam is maximising its political leverage with ‘clumping bamboo’ diplomacy. Although Thailand is famous for its skilful ‘bamboo diplomacy’ — always solidly rooted but flexible enough to bend whichever way the wind blows to survive — the Vietnamese have found another diplomatic philosophy to engage great powers. Read more…

Mongolian foreign policy: a small state with big aspirations

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi shakes hands with Mongolian Foreign Minister Luvsanvandan Bold after they signed agreements at China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, 16 January, 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Jargalsaikhan Enkhsaikhan, Blue Banner, UN

Mongolia is a relative newcomer in contemporary world politics.

The end of the cold war, the normalisation of Sino–Russian and Sino–Mongolian relations, as well as fundamental changes in Mongolia itself, have changed the country’s geopolitical environment and paved the way for Mongolia to enter international politics. Read more…

Is high handed regional diplomacy really in Australia’s interest?

Members of Pemuda Pancasila burn pictures of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott during a protest against Australian spying outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta on 26 November 2013. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Donald K. Anton, ANU

In recent times reports in the popular press recount too often international actions taken by Australia that appear decidedly undiplomatic — at least undiplomatic in the sense that they belie an effective management of international relations. These actions have been perceived as provocative (or worse) by a number of neighbours in the region. Read more…

Steady as she goes for Indonesian foreign policy, even with a new president

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (Photo: AAP).

Author: Awidya Santikajaya, ANU

During his two terms in office, Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been lauded for reviving activism in Indonesia’s foreign policy after years of difficulty following the 1997–98 Asian financial crisis and the fall of President Suharto. But will the upcoming leadership transition result in a drastic change in Indonesia’s foreign policy? Read more…

The Ukrainian crisis and Japan’s dilemma

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands at their meeting in the Bocharov Ruchei residence in Sochi, Russia, Saturday, 8 February 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Dmitry Filippov, University of Sheffield

The timing of the Ukrainian crisis could not have been worse for Japan, as it presented Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with the tactical dilemma of whether or not to fall in line with the international community by imposing sanctions against Russia.

So far, Japan’s reaction has been lukewarm compared to the response of the United States and the European Union. Read more…

On the edge in Asia, yet right in the middle of it

On the heights above Thimphu, a Bhutanese man straightens a prayer flag at a Buddhist shrine. Even the biggest powers in the region, such as China, India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea, are beholden in some way to their smaller allies or clients. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The course of Asia’s future will be significantly determined by how the bigger powers in the region — China, India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea, perhaps — manage their own national development and choose to play into regional and world affairs. In this context there is natural pre-occupation with China’s transition towards great power status and particularly its relationship with the established powers, importantly the United States Read more…

Mongolia in the region: time for economic foreign policy

The Oyu Tolgoi copper mine in the South Gobi desert, Mongolia. The mine is a joint venture between the Mongolian government, Canada's Ivanhoe Mines and British-Australian Rio Tinto. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Julian Dierkes, UBC

Mongolia has been extraordinarily successful in building a foreign policy around the Leitmotiv of ‘third neighbours’ for the past 20 years. Reinforced by the country’s democratisation and the promise of mineral resources, this foreign policy has helped Mongolia claim much more attention on the global stage than one might expect from a vast country of only three million inhabitants. Read more…

China debates the TPP

Chinese Chief Delegate Wang Shouwen, Assistant Minister of Commerce of China, speaks during the 4th Round of Negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement among China, Japan and South Korea in Seoul on 4 March 2014. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Paul Bowles, University of Northern British Columbia

A host of issues continue to plague Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

Constant reminders of how difficult these issues are to conclude come from actors as diverse as Japanese rice farmers, health care advocates in Canada and Australia, and Chilean officials concerned about intellectual property rights and capital controls. Read more…

Trade policy in swing: Indonesia’s attitude to liberalisation and the TPP

Indonesian dock workers unload  sugar imported from Mexico at Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Yose Rizal Damuri, CSIS

When Indonesian officials are asked about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Indonesia’s involvement in the proposed trade agreement, they normally answer that the country is paying attention to the process and the possible results of the negotiation, but has no interest in joining agreement at this time.

Doubt over Indonesia’s capacity to carry out proposed commitments in the trade deal as well as uncertainty regarding the potential for any significant benefits to the economy are cited as the main reasons for this position. Read more…