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Trade War: An Infinitesimal View

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USA China Trade War

In the post Cold War era, the US changed its policies, shifted its priorities and viewing China’s economic emergence as a great threat to its interests in coming decades. With a rapid economic growth, technological advancement and development of its armed forces, China became a future competitor of the US. Due to Chinese rapid economic growth, modernization of its armed forces as well as mounting position in Asian region and sea lanes of transportation, many American analysts take China as its future contestant. As a result, China remained a factor in the US all grand strategies. The ‘China versus the US’ indicate that Washington is taking potent steps against its threat (China). China perceives these steps as a part of the US policy of “hedge” to contain “the mighty China”. This writing tries to examine the ongoing trade war between the US and China in miniature view and suggest the options for China.

Trade wars have finally begun between the US and the China. Before little explanation of this Trade war, let’s discuss the concepts. A trade war is when a nation imposes tariffs on imports and foreign countries retaliate with similar forms of trade protectionism. It is side effect of protectionism that occurs when one country (country A) raises tariffs on another country’s (country B) imports in retaliation for country B raising  tariffs on country’s A imports. Besides this, a tariff is a tax imposed on imported goods and services. Trade wars also commence if one country perceives another country’s trading practices to be unfair. Trade wars are also a result of a misunderstanding of the widespread benefits of free trade. In addition, a tariff is a tax or duty that the government places on a class of imported goods (tariffs on exports are very rare). In theory, this makes the foreign products more expensive and therefore less desirable to consumers-boosting domestic makers of the product, which don’t have to pay the tax. The tariff is collected by customs officials and goes to the government. In addition, Protectionism refers to government actions and policies that restricts or restrain international trade, often with the intent of protecting local businesses and jobs from foreign competition.

The United States and China have imposed a tariff of 25% on imports worth $34 billion after exchanging several threats over the last few months. This marks the official beginning of what China dubs as “the biggest trade war in economic history”. While this trade war is far from the biggest the world has seen, it has the potential to cause some significant damage to the world economy. US President Donald Trump, who began the year by imposing tariffs on imported solar panels and washing machines, has vowed to possibly tax all Chinese imports into the US, which last year added up to a little over $500 billion. President Trump’s tariffs against China will likely resonate with voters who believe in his “America First” campaign and perceive the trade deficit with China as a loss to the US economy. China, not surprisingly, has responded by targeting American exports like soybean and automobiles, a move that could cause job losses in American states that accommodate Trump’s voter base. Other major US trading partners such as the European Union, Mexico and Canada have also slapped retaliatory tariffs on various US goods. On July 06, 2018 the Chinese products $34 billion worth, including goods, flat-screen televisions, aircraft parts and medical devices have faced tariff imposed by Trump administration. .The goods marked for tariffs will now face a punishing 25 percent border tax when they are imported into the US. The Trump administration initiated these tariffs after concluding an investigation into some of China’s ‘controversial trade practices’. The main motto behind the new trade barriers is to penalize China for doing things like forcing foreign businesses to hand over their most-prized technology to Chinese companies – many of which are state-owned – in exchange for access to their market. China immediately accused the US of starting “the largest trade war in economic history to date” and responded by imposing 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion worth of US goods, including soybeans, automobiles and lobsters. According to a spokesperson for China’s ministry of commerce, after Minutes the US tariffs went into effect,

“China promised not to fire the first shot, but in order to safeguard the country’s core national interests as well as those of the people, it is forced to fight back … the US will be opening fire on the whole world and also opening fire on itself.”

Additionally, the state-run Global Times wrote,

“If what the US wants is to escalate a trade war with China, then so be it. A little fighting may be the only way the Trump administration clears its mind and allows everyone to sober up.”

The aggregate amount of trade affected is moderate relative to the US and Chinese economies, but for the US, this is the most extensive import protection since the disastrous Smoot-Hawley tariffs in the 1930s. President Trump has threatened a 10 percent tax on a further $200 billion of imports from China.

In the context of feasible effects on global economy, the trade war between the US and the China could push the world economy towards a decline and it could lead to a collapse of comprehensive as well as global trade. The deteriorate investment, disturb financial markets and sluggish global economy are the major negative outputs of this trade war. This trade warfare between the US and China could extend to worldwide in trade arena and to areas beyond trade. According to economical analysts, the trade conflict among one superpower and other rising power can create disturbance of global supply chains. In addition, the US products which are assembled in third world countries can also be affected. Without a doubt, due to the disturb supply chain, the US consumer could well end up paying higher costs for products. At the end but not least, this trade confrontation between two rivalries of 21st century could affect the world trade system and it could be trade cold war between both countries be like the cold war between USA and the USSR in 20th Century. A thoroughgoing trade war could lead to a collapse of global trade.

Additionally, this trade war could also effects Chinese economy, With the Dawn of 21st century, People’s Republic of China is in a very fair position in the context of Economy to face any economic tornado because in general, its economy is less dependent on exports, and exports to the US in particular. The value added in its exports to the US is less than 3 percent of its economy. In addition, China is at the end of many global value chains, which include inputs from the US, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. The Shanghai stock market is in main territory, down 23 percent from a high in January 2018. Still, the trade war comes at a bad moment in China’s cycle. The establishment have been tightening financial conditions and trying to restraint in financial risks, so that the economy is slowing, even before it takes a hit from trade. The Chinese currency has depreciated round about 4.3 percent against the dollar for the last past few months.

This is a natural market reaction to the US protectionism. Over the same period, the dollar has appreciated about 5 percent against a basket of major currencies. This is one of the ironies of the US which is trying to use trade taxes. They create uncertainty in the world and one result is that capital flows out of other economies to the US. In the short run, this raises the value of the dollar and largely undoes the protection. Historically, when the US introduces protection, it has typically not led to an improvement in the trade balance, rather the opposite. In the case of US-China trade, 25 percent tax means that about $50 billion of imports will be more expensive, and the US is likely to import less. But the other $500 billion that the US imports will be modestly cheaper because of depreciation and the US will import more. History suggests that the net effect on the trade balance will be minor. This is one reason that the direct effect on the Chinese economy is likely to be minor.

In addition, the effect of this trade war could be on the US economy. The US economy is humming along because of fiscal stimulus from tax cuts plus expenditure increases. Net job gains in June, 2018 were above 200,000, the pattern of recent months. In general, the trade war will destroy some jobs in export sectors and create some jobs in import-competing ones. This is a bad tradeoff because export jobs are generally of higher productivity and pay. The job churning is also disruptive — the lost jobs are likely to be in agricultural states and southern states with auto plants, whereas job gains are probably elsewhere. The Trump White House is betting that, given the overall strength of the economy, some localized pain will be tolerable and the get-tough policy toward China will be a political winner for the midterms. Economically, both the United States and China would lose from a trade war. Punitive tariffs would push up import prices, dent exports, cost jobs and crimp economic growth, so both sides would do best to avoid an outbreak of hostilities.

Here some options for China to retaliate this trade war. In this trade war with China, President Donald Trump wields one seeming advantage: the US could ultimately slap tariffs on more than $500 billion in imported Chinese goods. Beijing has much less to tax: It imported just $130 billion in US goods last year. Yet that hardly means China would be powerless to fight back once it ran out of US goods to penalize. It possesses a range of other weapons with which to inflict pain on the US economy. Here is a look at some of the options China has in this war:

The Chinese government should do trade in local currency. The visit of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Mr. Imran khan Niazi to China give very valuable and authentic suggestion to Chinese government to do trade with Pakistan in Yuan rather than the US dollar $. It will be a direct and indirect hit to the US, her fellows and dollar $ currency. After the successful agreement with Pakistan, China could do trade with other countries in Yuan. Be remembered that China is a chief exporter country of the world with 2263 trillion dollar $. In addition, recently China gives defeat to the US in the context of purchasing oil and makes herself as chief and main oil importer and customer of the world. China could do trade with KSA, KUWAIT, IRAQ, IRAN, QATAR and other oil producing countries in Yuan but the US don’t want this. If the China would successful to do trade with oil producing countries in Yuan than the dollar will decrease its worth and market value at least. The US impose sanctions on European companies to do trade with Iran and other oil producing countries but reciprocally the European countries give intimidation to boycott the US  dollar. In addition, Russia would play vital role as recreationist and would give Red carpet to all. This downfall of dollar will make crash in World Bank and IMF also. Chinese government this step would create a greatest tension for the US and dollar.

China should do check and balance regarding the US companies in China. China’s state-dominated and heavily regulated authorities could disrupt the US companies by withholding licenses or launching tax, anti-monopoly or other investigations. Chinese controlled media should play vital role. The state-controlled media have encouraged consumer boycotts against Japanese, South Korean and other international products Last year, Beijing destroyed Korean retailer Lotte’s business in China after the company sold land in South Korea to the Seoul government for an anti-missile system opposed by Chinese leaders. Beijing closed most of Lotte’s 99 supermarkets and other outlets in China. Seoul and Beijing later mended their relations but Lotte gave up and sold its China operations.

To counter Trump’s “America First” approach, Beijing can appeal for support to US allies and other countries. Trump’s unilateral actions have allowed China to position itself as a defender of free trade despite its status as the most-closed major economy. That could help Beijing win over governments that have criticized Trump for acting outside the World Trade Organization. Chinese leaders have tried – so far without a major success – to recruit European and other governments as allies. More broadly, Chinese commentators have suggested Beijing also could disrupt diplomatic work over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes or other initiatives. But political analysts say that would risk setting back work Chinese leaders see as a priority.

In concluding remarks, No country can hope to impose tariffs without affecting its own trade and industry as well as economic interests in this contemporary world. Apart from disadvantage, countries that rely on foreign imports can be disturbed due to higher prices for goods, tariffs and supply chain of producers. So both the competitors of this globalized world, the US and China, are doing no good to their own economic fortunes by engaging in this tit-for-tat tariff battle after blamed each other for the ongoing trade warfare. According to the US Federal Reserve meeting the economic uncertainty, decline of private investment and delay of investment plans have been happened due to this trade war. Besides this, the economic giant China will also be equally affected. This current trade confrontation between the US and China also threatens the rules-based global trade order. It could also isolate the US, which has refused to settle differences through serious mediations, negotiations. If global trade tensions continue to simmer, it may not be too long before countries resort to other destructive measures such as devaluing their currencies to support domestic exporters. The world economy, which is on a slow path to recovery, can do without such unnecessary shocks.

PhD Student of the School of Politics and International Studies, Central China Normal University 152, Luoyu Road, Wuhan, Hubei, People’s Republic of China 430079

East Asia

Kishida and Japan-Indonesia Security Relations: The Prospects

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image source: twitter @kishida230

In October, Japan had inaugurated Fumio Kishida as the new prime minister after winning the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) presidential election earlier. Surely this new statesmanship will consequently influence Tokyo’s trajectory in international and regional affairs, including Southeast Asia.

Not only that Japan has much intensive strategic cooperation with Southeast Asians for decades, but the region’s importance has also been increasing under Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP). Southeast Asia, as a linchpin connecting the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, is key to Japan’s geostrategic interest and vision.

Since the LDP presidential election debate, many have identified Kishida’s policy trajectory, including in the defense and security aspect. Being bold, Kishida reflected its hawkish stance on China, North Korea, and its commitment to strengthening its alliance with Washington. Furthermore, Kishida also aimed to advance the geostrategic and security initiatives with like-minded countries, especially under FOIP.

One of the like-minded countries for Japan is Indonesia, which is key Japan’s key partner in Southeast Asia and Indo-Pacific.

This article maps the prospect of Japan’s security cooperation with Indonesia under the new prime minister. It argues that Prime Minister Kishida will continue to grow Japan’s security cooperation with Indonesia to adjust to the changing security environment in Indo-Pacific.

Japan – Indonesia Common Ground

In its basic principle, Japan and Indonesia shared the same values in democracy, rules-based order, and freedom of navigation in developing strategic cooperation, especially in the maritime security aspect. 

In the geostrategic context, Japan and Indonesia also have significant similarities. Both countries are maritime countries and seeking to maximize their maritime power, as well as having formally synchronized geostrategic vision. While Japan has FOIP, Indonesia has Global Maritime Fulcrum (Poros Maritim Dunia) and leading initiator for ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP).

In capitalizing on this shared vision, since Shinzo Abe and Joko “Jokowi” Widodo era, Japan and Indonesia have initiated much new security cooperation ranging from a high-level framework such as 2+2 Foreign and Defense Ministers’ Meeting in 2015 and 2021 to capacity building assistances and joint exercises. Furthermore, defense equipment transfers and joint technology development were also kicked off under Abe-Jokowi.

Kishida’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Profile

Compared to his predecessor, Suga Yoshihide, Prime Minister Kishida is more familiar with foreign affairs.

Personally, Kishida comes from a political family and spent several years living in the United States, reflecting his exposure to the international and political environment from an early age. This is significantly different from Suga, who grew up in a strawberry farmer family in a rural area in Akita Prefecture.

Politically, served as foreign minister under Shinzo Abe, Fumio Kishida is the longest-serving foreign minister in Japan’s history. This reflects his extensive understanding of current world affairs, compared to Suga who spent most of his prime political career in the domestic area such as being chief cabinet secretary and minister for internal affairs & communication.

Specifically, in defense and security posture, Prime Minister Kishida is willing to go beyond the status quo and not blocking any key options in order “to protect citizens”. During his policy speeches, he stated that he is not ruling out the option to build attacking capabilities due to the severe security environment surrounding Japan. Also, Kishida will not limit the defense budget under 1% of Japan’s gross domestic product if necessary.

Future Security Cooperation Trajectory with Indonesia 

In short, policy continuity will play a huge role. One of the reasons why Kishida was able to win over more popular Kono was due to his moderate liberalness, demonstrating stability over change. This was more preferred by faction leaders in LDP.

In defense and foreign affairs, the continuity is boldly shown as despite appointing entirely new ministers in his cabinet, the only two ministers retained by Kishida are Foreign Minister Motegi and Defense Minister Kishi. By this, it sent the narrative to the international community that there will not be significant turbulence caused by the changing leadership on Japan’s side.

As a background context on Indonesia, Fumio Kishida was the foreign minister from the Japanese side behind the 2+2 Foreign and Defense Ministers’ Meeting with Indonesia in 2015. Indonesia is the only country Japan has such a high-level security framework within Southeast Asia. This framework has led Japan and Indonesia to have a second edition of the 2+2 meeting in 2021, resulting in many practical cooperation deals in defense and security.

The other setting supporting Kishida’s policy continuity, especially in the context with Indonesia is that his foreign minister’s counterpart, Retno Marsudi, was still in charge from the last time Kishida left the foreign minister post in 2017, until today. Initiating the 2+2 framework together, it will be easier for Kishida to resume his relationship with both President Jokowi and Foreign Minister Retno in advancing its strategic cooperation with Indonesia, especially in the defense and security area.

The prospect of continuity is also reflected in Kishida’s commitment to continue the geostrategy relay of both his predecessors, Shinzo Abe and Suga Yoshihide, in achieving the FOIP vision.

Not only that Indonesia is having a similar vision of maritime prosperity and values with Japan, but Indonesia is also concerned with South China Sea dynamics as it started to threaten Indonesia’s remote islands, especially Natuna Islands. As this is a crucial cooperation opportunity, Kishida needs to continue assisting Indonesia to improve the security and prosperity of its remote islands. Thus, as Kishida also admitted that Indonesia is a major country in ASEAN, having favorable relations with Indonesia is important for Japan’s geostrategy.

Challenges

To capitalize on the potentials with Indonesia, Kishida needs to support Indonesia’s strategic independence as well as to make the best of his position as one of the United States’ allies in Asia.

Despite his tougher stance on China and Taiwan issues, Kishida cannot fully project Japan’s rivalry with China to Indonesia. In addition to its strategic independence, Indonesia has and needs strong strategic relations with China to support many of the vital development projects surrounding Indonesia. This cannot be touched.

Also, Japan needs to bridge Indonesia, as well as other like-minded Southeast Asian countries, with the Quad and AUKUS proponents. Indonesia is formally stated that it is concerned about the ownership of nuclear-powered weapons by its neighboring countries. On the other side, Japan supported AUKUS and is a close ally of the U.S. Kishida’s ability to grab this opportunity will solidify Japan’s credibility and position among Southeast Asians.

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East Asia

Will There Be an End to the War in Korea?

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On September 21, 2021, President of South Korea Moon Jae-in addressed the UN General Assembly, calling for a formal end to the Korean War of 1950–1953. “I … propose that the three parties of the two Koreas and the U.S. or the four parties of the two Koreas, the U.S. and China come together and declare that the war on the Korean Peninsula is over,” Moon Jae-in said.

President Moon’s call appeared more relevant than ever before. For decades, the military stand-off on the Korean Peninsula has been haunted by the threat of a “big war” that could involve nuclear weapons. Resolving the issue also presents a crucial political and legal problem, as the UN has from the outset been involved in the conflict. On the one hand, the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement only meant the cessation of military hostilities, not an end to the war as such. On the other hand, the absurd truth is that it is the United Nations, rather than South Korea, that is officially locked in a military stand-off with North Korea—something certainly needs to be done about this. During the war, South Korea received assistance in the form of UN Security Council Resolution 84 passed on July 7, 1950, establishing the UN Command, multinational armed forces of 16 states led by the United States. These forces fought in the Korean War under the UN flag and signed the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement as the adversary of the Korean People’s Army and China’s People’s Volunteer Army. The Command effectively signed the agreement on behalf of the United Nations, meaning that the latter is still formally at war with North Korea, a full-fledged UN member state since 1991.

President Moon has done his outmost best to build bridges between the two Koreas. The inter-Korean summits of 2018 yielded some positive results—in the near future, there will be no war in Korea, whether nuclear or conventional. That said, the two Koreas have recently tested ballistic missiles, thus demonstrating that Pyongyang and Seoul are both ready for dialogue and for confrontation. South Korea has accepted the existence of North Korea to adopt a policy of peaceful co-existence towards its closest neighbor. However, the parties have proved unable to take the most important step, which is to move the inter-Korean relations to a bilateral format. Moreover, Seoul still refuses to recognize the status of North Korea as that of an equal sovereign state, with a legitimate and constitutional leadership.

Some premises for this seem to be there. Nationalism is what brings the two Korean states closer. Even their first joint statement, dating back to July 4, 1972, said that the Korean unification must be achieved independently, without outside interference, which means peacefully and on the basis of “national consolidation.” In December 1991, the heads of government of the two Koreas signed the Agreement on Reconciliation, Non-Aggression, and Exchanges and Cooperation between South and North Korea, formally acknowledging the equal co-existence of the two Korean states. Five inter-Korean summits were held between 2000 and 2018, with joint declarations adopted at each of them. These were essentially programmes to cultivate bilateral relations that would see the two countries move away from confrontation towards reconciliation and eventual rapprochement. None of the documents envisioned any participation of third states in the inter-Korean communication. The relations between North and South Korea have always been conceptualized in an exclusively bilateral dimension, a practice that should persist.

President Moon has also proposed to establish some multilateral organization to include North Korea. “I propose today launching a Northeast Asia Cooperation Initiative for Infectious Disease Control and Public Health, whereby North Korea participates as a member along with China, Japan, Mongolia and the Republic of Korea.” He emphasized that states can no longer handle their national security issues individually. “A cooperative architecture that guarantees collective protection of life and safety will lay the groundwork for North Korea to have its security guaranteed by engaging with the international community.” The President believes that “the end-of-war declaration will indeed open the door to complete denuclearization and permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

Inter-Korean normalization would be impossible without the sanctions lifted, which requires certain progress towards resolving the nuclear issue. North Korea’s nuclear status is enshrined in its constitution—for today’s Pyongyang, this topic cannot be subject to any discussion. It would be wise to adopt a step-by-step approach here—first limiting North Korea’s nuclear missiles, then reducing their numbers to eliminate them all in the end. Negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang should be replaced with the “six-party” talks that sought to resolve the nuclear issue of the Korean peninsula in 2003–2008. For a humble beginning, the parties could discuss the prospects of putting a freeze on missile development, guaranteeing the non-proliferation of nuclear and missile technologies. Pyongyang could cease its development of intercontinental ballistic missiles and intermediate- or shorter-range missiles, opening its nuclear facilities for international inspections. In exchange, Washington, Tokyo and Seoul would formally recognize North Korea, establishing diplomatic relations, exchanging diplomatic missions, easing and ultimately lifting sanctions, rather choosing to provide economic and energy assistance to North Korea. A secure and stable North Korea is a far more reliable partner for talks on any subject, including on nuclear issues, than a country cornered by sanctions.

Today’s Northeast Asia is the only region in the world that lacks a multilateral framework to discuss matters of mutual interest or settle conflicts between regional parties. The main obstacle in the way of creating a security system in Northeast Asia is the little trust between the parties. Trust cannot appear without a dialogue on the specific issues of common interest.

In this respect, President Moon’s proposal to establish a multilateral organization that would include North Korea is worthy of note, as it is clearly an attempt to engage with North Korea in international affairs.

As part of its “New Northern Policy”, South Korea could complement President Moon’s current initiative by becoming an intermediary for other Northeast Asian states in assisting in their long-term projects in regional security, energy security, safe and peaceful use of nuclear energy, transportation security and cybersecurity. Setting up legally binding partnerships in the region in these areas, as well as fine-tuning their procedural mechanisms, would allow the parties to build mutual trust to move on to discussions of a broader range of regional issues concerning peace, development and security.

Bringing South Korea’s “New Northern Policy” in line with the existing programmes for international economic integration, which are already “tied-in” to each other (such as the Eurasian Economic Union and China’s Belt and Road Initiative), could bring about positive results. Openness, transparency and respect for each other’s interests could go a long way to establishing an effective framework for dialogue as well as a Eurasian Economic Partnership that would include both Koreas. However, how feasible is such an aligning of South Korea’s policies with more global initiatives given the country’s current alliance with the United States?

President Moon Jae-in proposed his initiative against the background of major malfunctions in international communication. The coronavirus pandemic has uprooted everyday life throughout the world. The entire system of international organizations turned out to be totally ineffective, if not completely paralyzed. At the same time, the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan has struck quite a heavy blow to the entire system of international relations. And it is not so much the U.S. defeat that matters here. Rather, it is the circumstances under which this defeat took place. In leaving Afghanistan, the Americans effectively presented their Afghan clients and their NATO allies, who had been fighting alongside them for 20 years, with a fait accompli.

The Afghan debacle will certainly have repercussions for the situation on the Korean peninsula. Currently, Washington seems to be incapable of proposing new initiatives on the nuclear issue, especially as it faces a number of far more urgent challenges across a broad geographic perimeter, stretching from China to Afghanistan. Still, no matter how interested Russia or China might be in the Korean sanctions being eased or lifted, this cannot be resolved without the United States.

However, the ancients used to say that a crisis can be both a disaster and an opportunity. Like any global crisis, not only do the pandemic and the U.S. fiasco in Afghanistan generate additional risks and challenges for the international community, but they also come with fresh opportunities, opening up new prospects. This applies to the current initiatives proposed by President Moon Jae-in just as well.

From our partner RIAC

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East Asia

The United States and Japan in Multilateral Asia: Forging Relations and Binding Ties

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Bilateral relations between the world’s sole superpower, the United States of America (US, USA), and the world’s third-largest economic power, the East Asian powerhouse of Japan, are premised on forging healthy relations and binding with the rest of Asia impeccably. This would involve deepening existing ties and forging new ones with the many notable actors professing to vital stakes and vested interests across the length and breadth of the world’s largest continent, as also the Indo-Pacific region (IPR). As on date, owing to evident differings and conflictual circumstances between countries such as Japan and South Korea, Washington D. C. is compelled to calculate its forays in Asia while aspiring for long-term amicability between belligerent countries. However, this factor has not stopped Washington from establishing, entertaining, and evolving its mini/multi-lateral relationships in Asia, especially in the eastern geography of the continent. The United States has implemented a ‘Hub-and-Spokes’ alliance system in the security environs of the Asia-Pacific, with Japan a critical, if not the most critical, ‘spoke’ in this system (see Figure 1 below).

Fig. 1  The US ‘Hub-and-Spokes’ Arrangement in Asia. Source:  The ASEAN Post

America and Japan are not just involved bilaterally, but have enforced an effective multilateral impression leading to having exercised their geopolitical influence across Asia. The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD, better known as the QUAD) is an initiative of four democracies, which was the brainchild of Japan in the mid-2000s, with pressing commonalities and engaging objectives in the Indo-Pacific in particular. Its four member democracies are the US, Japan, Australia, and India. It was heralded in 2007 courtesy promptings from Japan about the state of maritime security and apprehensions about the upsetting rise of a determined emerging superpower in the Peoples’ Republic of China, despite having initially focussed on disaster relief in the high seas (The Indian Ocean tsunami, December 2004). Of late, the QUAD has been given a much-needed impetus with the as-yet unstructured grouping having adopted a sole security motive to offset the rise of an increasingly influential, overbearing, and overpowering China. A first-ever in-person meeting was organised between its members in Washington D. C., with the capital of the United States signifying just how far the QUAD has come in terms of sustained minilateral activism. This in-person meeting has followed meetings between senior-level officials such as the respective foreign ministers of the four partner countries.

The US and Japan have also extensively associated with Southeast Asia as far as the political, geopolitical, economic, geoeconomic, security, and geostrategic situations of the region are concerned. The US remains on exceedingly and improvingly good terms with South China Sea countries such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Singapore – which are the four major countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or the ASEAN. These relationships are centred upon the military, and especially maritime-military, domain given that Southeast Asia largely involves routine and menacing Chinese infringements in the form of the brazen excursions of its many maritime entities such as the Peoples’ Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). An interest in Southeast Asia for Tokyo and Washington caters to a diverse array of initiations and involvement ranging from economic and trade relations to investments and financial outlays for very specific purposes. Timely and responsive military assistance in the form of equipment donations and technology transfers have also become a staple of the US and Japan’s association with Southeast Asian countries. A wary approach is pursued in the perplexing domain of the South and East China Seas with freedom of navigation considered to be an imperative of the vast maritime-naval forces deployed by Washington and Tokyo.

The United States was one of the first Dialogue Partners of the ASEAN (since 1977), and this is also when Japan formalised its till-then-informal dialogue partnership with ASEAN. The US has been involved in several ASEAN-driven maritime-allied formal platforms such as the East Asia Summit (2005), the Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (since 2012), and the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (which is held with all of the ASEAN’s Dialogue Partners and first took place in Vietnam in 2010). Japan is involved integrally in all of the above forums and the ASEAN+3, an exclusive between ASEAN and China, the Republic of Korea, plus Japan itself. In the broader respect, American involvement has helped forge a unity among the participants of such pioneering political, economic, and security mechanisms amongst, primarily, Southeast and east Asian nations, ably assisted by Japan wherever feasible. America’s (in)famous 2011 ‘pivot to Asia’, officially named a ‘Rebalance’, was meant to re-tune and re-focus its attention to the world’s largest and most important continent as far as the twenty-first century is concerned. This was due to the twin reasons of dealing with the emerging security imperatives related to erasing the extra-sovereign Chinese strategic footprint and devising new paradigms of mutually-beneficial economic cooperation with like-minded Asian countries. Southeast Asia was deemed to be the geographical launchpad of this strategy which has since evolved under succeeding administrations.

Other multilateral involvements which help address issues bearing a commonality and a convergence of maritime interests include the US-Australia-Japan Trilateral Security Dialogue (TSD). Australia is a country which is increasingly being viewed as an actor with the required level of capacities and capabilities befitting a broader and deeper Indo-Pacific institution of itself, and the recent announcement of an Australia-United Kingdom-United States (AUKUS) arrangement has just critically elevated its nuclear threshold. Within the ambit of the Indo-Pacific region in which all three profess to geopolitical stakes, both the US and Japan are highly committed friends of Australia. The TSD was founded in the late 2000s and was focussed on elevating cooperation between the three major Indo-Pacific players in the broader domain of security, which also includes the diplomatic, economic, social, and political arenas. A concerted and concentrated focus on China was also one of the themes of the security domain of the TSD. The last meeting of this trilateral took place in August 2019, a few months prior to the onset of the novel Coronavirus pandemic in Japan. A joint ministerial statement issued by the three parties was ASEAN-centric and endorsed the ‘ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific’. This last meeting had actually co-incided with the circulation of the ‘Outlook’ document by the ASEAN community.

It is certain that the US and Japan have, since time immemorial, indicated a tendency to align key and emerging players in regions of critical geopolitical importance, such as Southeast Asia, and this has considerably vitalised multilateralism. This optimism has been consistently backed by strategies entailing day-to-day participation and the US has emerged as an oddly Asian country in itself through a multitude of ever-growing endeavours. It has expended considerable bandwidth to Asia since the end of the warring years and there is much to both gain and learn from such a grand venture by a foreign superpower. The US remains immensely close to the ASEAN, as does Japan. The extent to which Washington and Tokyo have aided, abetted, assisted, and assured their friends and allies either jointly or individually is worth commendation and furthers a welcome duopoly in the Indo-Pacific region. Most of Southeast Asia remains in an emerging form, with a few prosperous exceptions such as the city-state of Singapore which are responsible for the rise of ASEAN as a worthy participant in the Indo-Pacific’s ‘Great Game’.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are personal and do not reflect those of his employers in the National Maritime Foundation or Modern Diplomacy.

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Every now and then, Indian newspapers flash news about Maoist insurgents, including women being killed. They usually avoid mentioning how...

forest forest
Environment15 hours ago

Greenpeace Africa reacts to DRC President’s decision to suspend illegal logging concessions

The President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Félix Tshisekedi, ordered on Friday, October 15th, the suspension of all...

Reports17 hours ago

Are we on track to meet the SDG9 industry-related targets by 2030?

A new report published by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Statistical Indicators of Inclusive and Sustainable Industrialization, looks...

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