ASEAN’s uncertain stance in the South China Sea

This US Navy photo obtained November 4, 2015 shows the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71)as it transits the South China Sea on October 29, 2015. Theodore Roosevelt is operating in the US 7th Fleet area of operations as part of a worldwide deployment en route to its new homeport in San Diego to complete a three-carrier homeport shift.  US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said he would visit the American aircraft carrier in the South China Sea on November 5, 2015 as US-Chinese tensions over the waterway escalate. Speaking after a regional summit November 4, 2015, Carter said he would fly out to the nuclear-powered USS Theodore Roosevelt, which "is conducting routine operations while transiting the South China Sea".  AFP PHOTO/US NAVY/ Specialist 3rd Class Anthony N. Hilkowski  = RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO /US NAVY/ Specialist 3rd Class Anthony N. Hilkowski " - 

Author: Chau Bao Nguyen, University of East Anglia

After months of speculation, the USS Lassen sailed within 12 nautical miles of an artificial Chinese island on 27 October 2015. In doing so, it completed the first in a series of planned freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea (SCS). The operation is the strongest assertion yet by the US Navy that it rejects Chinese reclamation projects, which could escalate tensions in the region. Read more…

Proactive diplomacy for peace under Japan’s new security legislation

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aboard the Escort vessel Kurama of the Maritime Self-Defense Force attends a Naval review ceremony in Sagami Bay off Kanagawa Prefecture on 18 October 2015. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Hitoshi Tanaka, JCIE

International scrutiny of Japan’s foreign policy direction and defence policy posture has been particularly intense in recent months. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s 14 August statement on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, and security legislation passed on 19 September, have brought renewed attention to the topic. Read more…

Is Myanmar’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement good enough?

Myanmar Lower House Speaker Thura Shwe Mann, Myanmar Upper House Speaker Khin Aung Myin and Senior General Min Aung Hlaing sign documents during the signing ceremony of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement on 15 October 2015, in Naypyitaw, Myanmar. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Trevor Wilson, ANU

On 15 October 2015, the Myanmar government and eight ethnic organisations signed the final version of a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). The agreement had been under negotiation since August 2011 and is one of the key political outcomes of Myanmar’s transition period under President Thein Sein. During the 1990s, the former military regime signed several separate ceasefires with individual ethnic groups. Read more…

China a defensive not neo-imperial power

Chinese people living in Poland wait for Chinese Navy ships in the port of Gdynia in Gdynia, Poland, 07 October 2015. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Grant Dawson, University of Nottingham

History and politics sometimes repeat themselves. From a global perspective, it almost seems we are entering a new age of imperialism, though this time the key powers are the United States and China. But despite appearances that recall the age of European imperialism of centuries ago, China’s foreign policy should be seen as defensive.

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How Cambodian nationalism is driving border disputes with Vietnam

Cambodian senator Hong Sok Hour (C), who belongs to a CNRP-affliated party, is escorted by police at Phnom Penh municipal court on October 7, 2015, in a case in which he could be jailed for 17 years after a court charged him on August 16 over the posting of a disputed document on social media about the border with Vietnam. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Vannarith Chheang, Cambodian Institute for Strategic Studies (CISS)

To strengthen national unity and identity, Cambodian leaders have for generations tried to construct, or reconstruct, nationalist ideology around Cambodia’s enduring border disputes. The border disputes have become the main topic in Cambodian domestic politics and foreign policy since Cambodia gained independence from France in 1953. The disputes are the result of the unclear frontier demarcation by the colonial administration, and have led to armed conflicts between Cambodia and its neighbours.

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How Abe is losing the narrative on Japan’s new security laws

A demonstrator holds a sign against the new legislation that would allow the military to deploy overseas, in Tokyo outside of Japan's parliament against new legislation on September 23, 2015 (Photo: AAP)

Author: Stephen Nagy, ICU Tokyo

Japan’s new security laws, which were passed on 19 September and allow for limited forms of collective self-defence, have been described as a ‘move away from pacifism’, the opening of a ‘Pandora’s box’ and the ‘unsheathing of a new Japanese sword’. But considering the bill’s extreme limitations and significant domestic constraints — including a greying and shrinking population, mounting domestic debt and deeply embedded pacifist norms — one wonders how and why this narrative has taken root so deeply.

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What’s displacing Air Sea Battle in US military planning?

Russian President Valdimir Putin, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry talk to each other after negotiations of Russian and US leaders at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, USA, 28 September 2015. Russia is changing the security landscape and US defence planners are adapting. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Greg Raymond, ANU

In a slow moving transition underway since late 2014, there are strong signs that the often-criticised US Air Sea Battle operational concept is being quietly — albeit not officially — sidelined as a focus of US military strategy. The likelihood is that a new program, the so-called Third Offset Strategy, is displacing it. This suggests that since the unsettling return of 19th century-style territorial annexation to 21st century Europe, Russia is looming as a serious threat in the minds of US defence planners — possibly even more than China. Read more…