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Turning Gulf Security Upside Down

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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Like many paradigms across the globe, the pandemic and its associated economic downturn have changed the paradigm shaping debates about Gulf security that was inevitably set to gradually migrate from a unipolar US defense umbrella that shielded energy-rich monarchies against Iran to an architecture that was more multilateral. In many ways, the pandemic’s fallout has levelled the playing field and not necessarily in ways that favour current policies of Gulf states.

Saudi Arabia’s relations with the West are increasingly being called into question, with the Saudi–Russian oil price war in March potentially having broken the camel’s back. The Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) stand to lose at least some of the financial clout that allowed them to punch above their weight even if they are likely to exclude arms purchases from their austerity measures.

Weakened financial clout comes at a moment when the Gulf states and Iran are gearing up towards an arms race in the wake of Iran’s recent satellite launch and unveiling of an unmanned underwater vehicle against the backdrop of the 2015 international agreement that curbed the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme inching towards collapse. The unmanned underwater vehicle puts Iran in an elite club, of which the only other members capable of producing them are the United States, Britain and China.[1] The satellite adds Iran to a group of only about a dozen countries able to do launches of their own. [2]

Add to this the fact that none of the regional players — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Iran, Turkey and Israel — feel secure that any of the external powers — the United States, China and Russia — are reliable security and geopolitical partners.

Gulf states have, for years going back to the era of Barak Obama if not Bill Clinton, increasingly perceived the United States as unfortunately their only option on the premise that they are not willing to change their policies, particularly towards Iran, but one that is demonstrably unreliable, unwilling to defend Gulf states at whatever cost, and at times at odds with them in terms of policy objectives.

The Gulf states’ problem is that neither Russia nor China offer real alternatives at least not on terms that all Gulf states are willing to accept. Russia is neither interested nor capable of replacing the United States. Moreover, its Gulf security plan is at odds with at least the policy of Saudi Arabia.

The plan calls for a security arrangement modelled on that of Europe under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). It would be an arrangement that, unlike the US defence umbrella in the Gulf, includes Iran, not directed against it. It would have to involve some kind of regional agreement on non-aggression.[3]

Saudi Arabia, under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has made clear that it is not interested, as is evident in the pandemic where it has refrained, in contrast to other Gulf states, from reaching out to Iran with humanitarian aid even though it last year engaged in an indirect exchange with the Islamic Republic. That exchange died with the killing by the United States in January of Iranian general Qassim Soleimani.

The Elephant in the Room

China is obviously the elephant in the room.

Logically, China and the Gulf states are in the same boat as they grapple with uncertainty about current regional security arrangements. Like the Gulf states, China has long relied on the US defence umbrella to ensure the security of the flow of energy and other goods through waters surrounding the Gulf in what the United States has termed free-riding.

In anticipation of the day when China can no longer depend on security provided by the United States free of charge, China has gradually adjusted its defense strategy and built its first foreign military facility in Djibouti facing the Gulf from the Horn of Africa. With the People’s Liberation Army Navy tasked with protecting China’s sea lines of communication and safeguarding its overseas interests, strategic planners have signalled that Djibouti is a first step in the likely establishment of further bases that would allow it to project long-range capability and shorten the time needed to resupply.

But like with the Russians, Chinese strategic planners and their Gulf counterparts may part ways when it comes to what would be acceptable geopolitical parameters for a rejuvenated regional security architecture, particularly with regard to Iran. Any new architecture would break the mould of Chinese engagement in the Middle East that is designed to shield the People’s Republic from being sucked into the region’s myriad conflicts.

The assumption has long been that China could at best postpone execution, but that ultimately, it would have no choice but to engage in the politics of the region. More recently, influential Chinese analysts are suggesting that China has another option: turn its back on the region. That may seem incredulous given China’s dependence on Middle Eastern energy resources as well as its significant investments in the region.

These analysts argue, however, that China is able to diversify its energy sources and that Chinese investment in the Middle East is but a small percentage of overall Chinese overseas investment. They describe Chinese Middle Eastern economic relations as past their heyday with economies of both in decline and the prospects of the situation in the Middle East getting worse before it becomes better.

“China–Middle East countries is not a political strategic logic, it’s an economic logic. For China, the Middle East is always on the very distant backburner of China’s strategic global strategies … Covid-19, combined with the oil price crisis, will dramatically change the Middle East. (This) will change China’s investment model in the Middle East … The good times of China and the Middle East are already gone… Both China and the Middle Eastern economies have been slowing down … In the future, the pandemic, combined with the oil price problem, will make the Middle East situation worse. So, the China economic relationship with the Middle East will be affected very deeply,” said Niu Xinchun, director of Middle East studies at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), widely viewed as China’s most influential think tank.[4]

Pessimistic forecasts of economic prospects in the Middle East bolster Niu’s prediction. Data and analytics company GlobalData predicted in an email that depressed oil markets and prices in the Middle East and North Africa would lead to a contraction in non-oil sectors, including construction. “Construction activity for the remainder of 2020 is set to see poor performance … In addition, public investment is likely to be moderate, which will translate into fewer prospects for private sector businesses to grow — especially within sectors such as infrastructure. Expected increase in taxes, selected subsidy cuts and the introduction of several public sector service charges will influence households’ purchasing power, having a knock-on effect on future commercial investments,” said GlobalData economist Yasmine Ghozzi.

Moreover, the downplaying of Chinese economic interest in the Middle East fits a pattern of reduced Chinese capital outflows. “What we may not have seen is how much China has retreated financially already for the past four years … Especially since 2016, China’s outflows have come down dramatically in both lending and investment. Foreign direct investment is now at about 30 per cent of what it was in 2016,” said Agatha Kratz, associate director of Rhodium Group, an independent research provider.[5]

To be sure, Chinese officials and analysts have consistently maintained that the Middle East is not a Chinese priority, that any future battles with the United States will be fought in the Asia Pacific, not in the Gulf. Their assertions are backed up by the fact that China has yet to articulate a comprehensive policy towards the region and in 2016 issued its one and only white paper on policy towards the Arab world that essentially was an elaboration of its basic foreign and defense policy principles.

More likely than China seriously entertaining turning its back on the Middle East is the probability that it is sending the region a message that is not dissimilar from what Russia is saying: get your act together and find a way to dial down the tension. It is a message that appears to varying degrees to have been heard in the smaller Gulf states but has yet to resonate in Riyadh. It is also a message that has not been rejected out of hand by Iran.

Discussing a possible extension of a United Nations arms embargo against Iran, Saudi Ambassador Abdallah Al Mouallimi, arguing in favour of a prolongation, suggested that it would serve Russian and Chinese interests even though they would not agree with that assessment. “They have their views, we respect their views, but their interests would be better served and promoted with the embargo extended,” said Al Mouallimi.[6]

A Chinese Communist Party newspaper made days later a first reference in the People’s Republic’s state-controlled media to reports of an alleged secret 25-year multi-billion-dollar co-operation agreement in Iran amid controversy in the Islamic Republic. Chinese officials and media have largely remained silent about Iranian reports of an agreement worth anywhere between US$120 billion and US$400 billion that seemingly was proposed by Iran, but has yet to be accepted by China.[7]

Writing in the Shanghai Observer, a subsidiary of Liberation Daily, the official newspaper of the Shanghai Committee of the Communist Party of China, Middle East scholar Fan Hongda argued that the agreement, though nowhere close to implementation, highlighted “an important moment of development” at a time that US–Chinese tensions allowed Beijing to pay less heed to American policies.[8] Fan’s suggestion that the US–Chinese divide gave China more room to develop its relations with Iran will not have gone unnoticed in Riyadh and other Gulf capitals.

An Emerging Tug of War

How all of this may shake out could be determined by the emerging tug of war in the Middle East between China and the US. Israel has already been caught up in it and has made its choice clear, even if it still attempting to maintain some wiggle room. Nonetheless, Israel, in the ultimate analysis, knows where its bread is buttered, particularly at a moment where the United States is the only backer of its annexationist policies. In contrast to Israel, the US is likely to find the going tougher when it comes to persuading Gulf states to limit their engagement with China, including with telecom giant Huawei, which already has significant operations in the region.

Like Israel, UAE officials have sought to convey to the US that they see relations with the United States as indispensable even though that has yet to be put to a test when it comes to China. Gulf officials’ stress on the importance of ties will, however, not shield them from American demands that they review and limit their relations with China, nor its warnings that involvement of Huawei could jeopardise sensitive communications, particularly given the multiple US bases in the region, including the US Fifth Fleet in Bahrain and the forward headquarters of the US military’s Central Command, or Centcom, in Qatar.

The US Embassy in Abu Dhabi, in a shot across the Gulf’s bow, last month rejected a UAE offer to donate hundreds of coronavirus tests for screening of its staff. The snub was designed to put a dent in China’s health “Silk Road” diplomacy centered on its experience with the pandemic and ability to manufacture personal protective and medical equipment.

A US official said the tests were rejected because they were either Chinese-made or involved BGI Genomics, a Chinese company active in the Gulf, which raised concerns about patient privacy. The US softened the blow when the prestigious Ohio-based Cleveland Clinic sent 40 nurses and doctor to its Abu Dhabi subsidiary. The Abu Dhabi facility was tasked with treating the UAE’s most severe cases of coronavirus.[9]

The problem for the US is that it is not only Trump’s policy or lack thereof towards the Middle East that undermines confidence but it is also policies that, on the surface, have nothing to do with the Middle East. The United States has been asking its partners including Gulf states to give it time to develop an alternative to Huawei’s 5G network. Yet at the same time, it is barring the kind of people entry that technology companies need to develop systems.

A Silver Lining

No matter how the tug of war in the Middle East evolves, the silver lining is that, like China, the United States despite its desire to reduce its commitment cannot afford a power void in the region. That is what may create the basis for breaking the mould.

It will require a backing away from approaches that treat conflicts as zero-sum games not only on the part of regional players but also of external players, like in the case of the US versus Iran, and it will require engagement by all regional and external players. To achieve that, players would have to recognise that in many ways, perceptions on both sides of the Gulf divide are mirror images of one another: all parties see each other as existential threats.

Failure to break the stalemate risks conflicts becoming further entrenched and threatening to spin out of control. The opportunity is that confidence-building measures and a willingness to engage open a door towards mutually acceptable regional security arrangements and conflict resolution. However, for that to happen, major powers would have to invest political will and energy at a time when they feel they have bigger fish to fry and prioritise geopolitical jockeying.

In a twist of irony, geopolitical jockeying may prove to be an icebreaker in a world, and certainly a region, where everything is interconnected. Increasingly, security in the Gulf is not just about security in the Gulf. It is not even just about security in the Middle East. It is about security in the Mediterranean, whether one looks at Libya on the sea’s southern shores, Syria in the east, or growing tension in the whole of the Eastern Mediterranean. And it does not stop there with regional rivalries reaching into the Black and Caspian Seas and into Central Asia.

Finally, there are the grey and black swans built into partnerships and alliances that are either becoming more fragile like those of the United States or ones that have fragility built into their DNA like the ties between Iran, Turkey, China and Russia. Those swans could at any moment swing the pendulum one way or another.

To be sure, contrary to Western perceptions, relations between Iran, Turkey, Russia and China are not just opportunistic and driven by short-term common interests but also grounded in a degree of shared values. The fact of the matter is that men like presidents Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei find common ground in a view of a new world order that rejects democracy and the rule of law; disregards human and minority rights; flaunts, at least for now, violations of international law; and operates on the principle of might is right.

That glue, however, is insufficient, to prevent Turkey and Russia from ending up on opposite sides of conflicts in Libya and Syria. It is also unlikely to halt the gradual erosion of a presumed division of labour in Central Asia with Russia ensuring security and China focusing on economic development. And it is doubtful it would alter the simmering rivalry between Iran and Russia in the Caspian Sea and long-standing Russian reluctance to sell Iran a desperately needed anti-missile defense system.

In short, fasten your seat belt. Gulf and broader regional security could prove to be a bumpy ride with unexpected speed bumps.

[1] “Iran’s UUV to add new dimension to its warfare capability: Forbes”, Tehran Times, 30 May 2020, https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/448370/Iran-s-UUV-to-add-new-dimension-to-its-warfare-capability-Forbes.

[2] Mike Wall, “Iran launches its 1st military satellite into orbit: reports”, Space.com, 22 April 2020, https://www.space.com/iran-launches-first-military-satellite.html.

[3] Theodore Karasik, “Is Russia’s ‘old’ Gulf security plan the best it can do?”, Arab News, 20 July 2019, https://www.arabnews.com/node/1533096.

[4] Niu Xinchun speaking on “How are China’s Relations with the Middle East Evolving During the COVID-19 Pandemic?”, Chatham House, 19 May 2019, https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2721841274725780.

[5] Agatha Kratz speaking on “China and the Mediterranean Region in and Beyond the Pandemic, German Marshal Fund”, 3 July 2020, https://www.gmfus.org/events/china-and-mediterranean-region-and-beyond-pandemic.

[6] Joyce Karam, “Russian and Chinese interests ‘better served’ if Iran arms embargo is extended, says Saudi official”, The National, 2 July 2020, https://www.thenational.ae/world/the-americas/russian-and-chinese-interests-better-served-if-iran-arms-embargo-is-extended-says-saudi-official-1.1042822.

[7] Seth J Frantzman, “Iran media discuss 25-year deal between Iran and China”, The Jerusalem Post, 3 July 2020, https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/iran-media-discuss-25-year-deal-between-iran-and-china-633739.

[8] Fan Hongda, “Iran announced a 25-year comprehensive cooperation plan with China, can Sino-Iranian relations get closer?” [观察家 | 伊朗宣布与华25年全面合作计划,中伊关系能否进一步走近?], Shanghai Observer, 20 June 2020, https://www.shobserver.com/news/detail?id=264494.

[9]Interview with the author, 8 June 2020.

Author’s note: This story first appeared as an MEI Insight

Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title, Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and three forthcoming books, Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africaas well as Creating Frankenstein: The Saudi Export of Ultra-conservatism and China and the Middle East: Venturing into the Maelstrom.

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Defense

Japan’s Security Environment in Asia Pacific: A Tragic or Misery

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Authors: Mehtab Ali Bhatti and Kainat Akram*

The security threats can be to a great extent partitioned into two groups; traditional and non-traditional security threats. One’s focus would mainly be on the traditional security challenges of Japan. Tokyo deliberately perplexed the world. It emerged as non-western power but no one could expect about its dexterity, and it was serious trouble to Western and Asian powers because they were dependent on its impressive economy. Tokyo’s trade surpluses were, $44 billion in 1984, $56 billion in 1985 and $93 billion in 1986, which shows Japanese rulers’ strategies, growing technology, education system, and people’s countless struggle towards their homeland.[1]But during WWII, they lost their formidable economy as well as some of their major cities like Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Aftermath, Japan experienced a tremendous financial crisis like debt. Ironically, Japan is one of the biggest debtor countries with the highest debt to GDP ratio of 222.2% in the world[2], which is a major threat for Japanese people.

Currently, Japan’s security environment is getting significantly severer with the sensational move in the global force balance, the development of new threats, for example, psychological oppression and cyberattacks, and the serious security environment in the Asia-Pacific region. Such threats effectively cross-national borders. In the Asia Pacific region, regardless of the centralization of countries that have enormous scope military ability including atomic weapons states, regional collaboration structures on security are not adequately regulated. North Korea’s proceeded with the advancement of atomic weapons and ballistic rocket programs just as its provocative conduct is compromising for Tokyo. China’s headway of its military capacity without straightforwardness and its further exercises in the ocean and air space are a danger for Tokyo. In addition, move in the global force parity and fast advancement of mechanical development, multiplication of weapons of mass annihilation, and the rise of threats that cross national borders, remembering international psychological oppression and dangers for the ocean, space, and cyberspace are additionally unavoidable threats to Japan’s security. In addition, issues identified with “human security,”[3] including destitution and advancement difficulties, and developing dangers to the global economy.

In this fast-moving world and cut-throat political competition era, the political dynamics of Asia Pacific region is changing with changing strategic environment, due to the geo-strategic consolidation among different countries, the focus of the entire world is tilted towards China’s owing to rapid development in terms of economic, political and military means. The ongoing protracted South-China Sea conflict of China with many ASEAN countries who are claimant of the cited territory and aggressive posture of nuclear power North Korea has made the region more prone to conflicts as well as an arms race in the region has frayed nerves, further, escalated the tensions. In this tense environment, Japan has been facing a potential threat from the opposite bloc to its very sovereignty and territorial integrity.

According to Tokyo, following countries have posed an aggressive posture in the Asia-pacific, which is worrisome for Japan:

China

China-Japan Relations

In the Asia-Pacific region tensions are being seen worrisome as China is becoming more energetic about its claims over the South China Sea, its tactical and evident actions have spotted other surrounding countries and external interested countries like the United States. China and Japan both have flourished and innate abhorrence since 19th century and America is owing more hatred and tensions in the Asia-Pacific region.[4]It might be called upon that there is nothing invaluable in the East Asia-Pacific but historically it is all about pride and honor, and serious issue of Senkaku Island for Japan. And their tensions ousted from the first Sino Japanese war, then islands were given to Taiwan, and due to victory in WWII, these islands were recovered by China after surrendering of Japan. The aftermath of a new threat established from communist country China; US and Japan signed an agreement of San Francisco Peace Conference by allowing Japan to patrol in the island regions, and America provided types of equipment and economically supported Japan to counter rising power China in the Asia Pacific region and tensions rampantly encouraging until today.

In the 21st century, the ascent of Asia has drawn the consideration of the United States to concentrate particularly on the Asia-Pacific region. Because of its geostrategic significance and going to be an economic hub of the world, the development of Asia can be identified with the expanding economic exercises in which rising forces China, India, and Indonesia are assuming their crucial role. The major economic activities happen in the Asia Pacific, for instance, the main trade routes pass through the Asia Pacific, and the Indian Ocean where strait of malacca is a gateway to major economies like China, Japan, and South Korea. Particularly, in the Asia Pacific region, the US has its economic, strategic, and security interests. It includes the economic network all through the region, support of peace and soundness, and making sure about its allies particularly Japan and South Korea, and ensuring the claimants of the South China Sea to resolve their issues peacefully.

China’s Response towards American Pivot and Indo-Pacific Strategy

China’s rise as a great power in this changing dynamics of world politics does not lag behind and it is important to understand Sino-US relations in the purview of America’s past Asia Pivot strategy[5] and Trump’s Indo-pacific strategy.[6]There are multiple significant events by which it can be speculated that People’s Republic of China (PRC) is emerging as a great player, for instance, it has resisted western intervention three times in collaboration with Russia over the Syrian civil war in the Middle East; it also bring-up with the idea of making BRICS and establishing AIIB which is considered as the counterweight to America’s World Bank; through SCO, China has also influenced her role in the international politics; most significantly, it has come up with a ‘Belt and Road initiative’’ with CPEC which shows China’s soft power in the world. However, with this dynamic strategic architecture in the Asia Pacific, two contours are important – what made the US come up with a rebalancing strategy and how China responds to it.

According to official reports, China has responded to the Indo-Pacific policy of America in two levels. Firstly, Chinese authorities have firmly denounced this US expressed policy and that they are mindful that US diplomatic moves would bolster its allies regarding the sea and territorial debates with China. Secondly, Chinese non-official media has harshly castigated US rebalancing strategy towards Asia. Some view this strategy as Cold-war like containment of China which was based solely against China because China’s ascent is representing a possible danger to America’s authority and its allies. “China in countering Pivot’s response has come up with ‘Marching West’ strategy, which aims at focusing China’s diplomatic and economic relations with the Eurasian countries,” according to Aaron Jed Rabena.[7] She is also of the view that China’s ascent is representing a likely threat to America’s hegemony.

Moreover, China’s reaction to the Asia-Pivot policy in past and current procedure of Trump can be shown by means of diplomatic and economic activities, for example, Belt and Road activity, Asian framework venture bank and reinforcing respective relations. The OBOR activity of China will fill two needs. Right off the bat, it will merge China’s delicate power, and besides, enhance economic collaboration with in excess of 60 nations. The Chinese reaction and its military modernization have made a serious mix and unsafe circumstance to the US Indo-Pacific technique with pervasive interests in the Asia-Pacific region. In this universe of complex association, war is certifiably not an attainable choice. America will never do battle with China since China is the second the biggest exchanging accomplice of America. Additionally, the Chinese reaction to this US procedure has been delicate as is obvious from March West methodology, OBOR, and AIIB activities. These steps are the projection of Chinese Soft power response to Obama’s rebalancing and Trump’s Indo-pacific strategy towards Asia.

North Korea

Rivalry is not Old-fashioned

Korean Peninsula has been remained a play chess match for foreign powers like Japan, the US, Soviet Union, and China—in 1910 Korean Peninsula was occupied by the Japanese empire but after the demise of Japan in 1945 and WWII, Korean Peninsula was partitioned into two South and North. Whereas, the North was occupied by the Soviet Union and the South was occupied by the United States. In 1948, re-unification negotiations were failed and two governments were stimulated; the Socialist Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the North and the Capitalist Republic of Korea (RK) in the South. In addition, the Korean War occurred in 1950’s, initiated by North Korea for invasion and the ceasefire occurred but peace treaty was not endorsed.[8]

In the contemporary era, the security environment of North Korea is very complex and instrumental. North Korea has one of the world’s biggest regular military powers, which, joined with its rocket and atomic tests. North Korea spends almost a fourth of its total national output (GDP) on its military, as indicated by U.S. State Department gauges.[9] Its brinkmanship will keep on testing regional and international associations planned for protecting stability and security.

However, North Korea has remained a part of Communist bloc, where Russia and China have been the back supporters. In the realist paradigm, ‘enemy of an enemy is friend,’ likely in this case, Russia supports North Korea and the US supports South Korea economically, politically, and militarily. Therefore, in the North Korean nuclearization, the role of China and Russia is very evident. On the other hand, in the economic advancement of South Korea, the American role is not far-seeing as evident.

North Korean Nuclearization a Dwelling Threat for Japan

North Korea’s quest for atomic weapons is a sensible procedure given that the system’s greatest security probability from international intercession. Additionally, for the North Korean system, atomic weapons have three strategic capacities, and with everyone, the US is directly in the middle. After that, they fill in as impediments; also, an instrument of international strategy; and thirdly, they are an instrument of residential legislative issues. The atomic weapons have given influence and a negotiating concession diplomatically associating with all the more impressive and increasingly effective on-screen characters, similar to the US and its partner South Korea and Japan.

North Korea’s nuclear missile testing has raised tensions in the Asia-Pacific region and created a global threat. It is an imminent threat to Japan as an ally of the US. Since 2006 North Korea has conducted 6 nuclear ballistic missile tests and one of them flew over Japan in 2017.[10]Due to nuclear tests, 15 members have voted against North Korea to the Security Council with US-drafted resolution, and new sanctions of North Korea’s textile exports have been alleged. In the reaction, North Korea had shown the backing of veto powers like China and Russia and aggressively indicated to devastate the US, Japan, and South Korea.

According to South Korean President Moon, they were against nuclear weapons in their state and they had withdrawn their nuclear weapons in the 1990s, “Nuclear weapons could not prolong the peace in the region,” said Moon, “They have provided $8 million through the United Nations to North Korean citizens for women pregnancy and to aid the poor and infants.[11]In the words of war, North Korea called South Korea as “traitors and dogs” of America and “dancing tune” to Japan and alleged that the US has troops in South Korea to destroy the North and its Asia- Pacific allies. Because of nuclear capability and conflict of the 1950s, in which America and South Korea were allied and had an aim to force North Korea for peace treaty but it rejected. North Korea continued to develop a ballistic missile program (Hwasong-14 with the range of 10,000 and Hwasong-15 with the range of 13,000 KM) which has been an impendent threat to Japan, South Korea as well as America. By measuring, America has put North Korea at the top list of terrorism promoter and designed unravished sanctions on North Korea.

De-nuclearization Fiasco

Tokyo is currently carefully watching the process of dialogue moving toward a U.S.- North Korea exchange and is worried that dealings on denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula may reject Japan’s unsafe perspectives. A senior authority of the Japan Ministry of Defence concerning the highest point among Trump and Kim Jong-un of 2018 stated, “We ought not to have an idealistic view that North Korea will relinquish the atomic weapons which it has at long last obtained.”[12] Therefore, to adapt to the North Korea emergency, Abe regularly underscores the significance of the U.S.- Japan partnership. There is no uncertainty that security ties among Japan and the U.S. have fortified further under the Abe administration.

Other Global Threats to Japan

According to the realist school of thought in international relations, global world order is anarchic, and power centric; its effects are, no trust in Anarchy, constant competition for power, zero-sum game, and relative gains. Further two types, 1. Defensive realism (states are security maximizers and seek survival, status quo, and states are not inherently aggressive) and 2. Offensive realism (States are power maximizers, in the absence of complete hegemony states act offensively and use its power as any can i.e. the US invasion of Iraq 2003).

The rapid progress of technology and shift in the global power is a major threat for all states but Japan has regular emerging threats like in the Asia-Pacific region. The proliferation of conventional and unconventional weapons is increasing which indicates threats at large, besides this, global terrorism, maritime risks, and cyberspace are disparate challenges to Japan. Japan is actively seeking an active role of self-defence and peacekeeping and increasing its technology to combat in the Korean Peninsula and to counter China’s growing power in the Asia-Pacific as well as in the World. State sovereignty is absolute, particularly which showed Japan through its heavy Defence budget and its measures taken in the Senkaku island, recently fiscal defence budget in 2016-17 was nearly $42 billion.[13]It was a non-western state which defeated Russia and attacked the US and its economy was second largest in the world. No doubt, Japan is the most industrialized and thick technological country that emerged again after World War II.  

Concluding Remarks

The dynamics of the international geostrategic environment in which the world politics is transforming from unipolarity to multipolarity with China emerging as a great power due to its military modernization, advanced technology, and growing economy and commercial connectivity in the entire Asia, which is alarming for the US but regionally it is an irked threat for American allies particularly Japan and South Korea.

By witnessing China as emerging power, American Asia pivot/rebalancing strategy and Trump’s Indo-Pacific strategy towards Asia in order to counter the growing influence of China. America and its allies should not perceive Chinese rise in terms of military and economy as a threat to world peace and aggressor because PRC has always been peaceful in dealing the problems of the world and the norms of non-interference are prevailing but no compromise on territorial claims—have been immersed in the Chinese foreign policy.

The United States’ concern over denuclearization of North Korean nuclear assets is not acceptable to Kim’s regime due to the prestige and status quo of the state but has vague threats from the US forces in South Korea. Even after the President Trump’s summit with Kim Jong Un in 2018, the US ally Japan is claiming that North Korean regime poses a genuine and inescapable danger to their security regardless of bringing down of regional pressures following the summit.

China has reacted to America through the procedure of ‘Looking West and Marching West’. A few researchers are of the view that the opposition between two significant forces depicts another virus war, however, I differ that since China won’t utilize its military alternative, China wants to grow economically and it wants to have an influence on the world through soft power. In a nutshell, I would say that the US must integrate with China rather than to contain it and appreciate its emergence as a responsible stakeholder.

Nonetheless, Japan’s reaction should comprise of two distinct methodologies: the anticipation of decay and the improvement of its security environment the essential reaction will be the discouragement of heightening through the improvement of Japan’s safeguard capacity and the upgrade of the Japan-US collusion. It is additionally significant for Japan to acquire and fortify international comprehension and backing for its position through protection discretion remembering that for multilateral exchanges. International help can upgrade Japan’s situation in managing the difficulties, and yet, the effect would stay roundabout. Japan can’t depend on unrealistic reasoning and ought to investigate other options too.

* Kainat Akram did Bachelor of Arts from Government College University Faisalabad. She also did Masters in Science (M.Sc) in Gender and Women Studies from Allama Iqbal Open University, Islamabad.


[1] Robert C. Christopher, “Don`t Blame The Japanese,” The New York Times Magazine, Oct. 19, 1986 (https://www.nytimes.com/1986/10/19/magazine/don-t-blame-the-japanese.html), accessed on July 20, 2020.

[2]H. Plecher, “Japan: National debt from 2014 to 2024,” Statista, May 6, 2020 (https://www.statista.com/statistics/270121/national-debt-of-japan/), accessed on July 18, 2020.

[3] Catia Gregoratti, “Human Security,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, Dec. 14, 2018 (https://www.britannica.com/topic/human-security), accessed on July 20, 2020.

[4] Kerry Brown, “The Most Dangerous Problem in Asia: China-Japan Relations,” The Diplomat, Aug. 31, 2016 (https://thediplomat.com/2016/08/the-most-dangerous-problem-in-asia-china-japan-relations/), accessed on July 19, 2020.

[5] Matt Schiavenza, “What Exactly Does It Mean That the U.S. Is Pivoting to Asia?” The Atlantic, April 15, 2013 (https://www.theatlantic.com/china/archive/2013/04/what-exactly-does-it-mean-that-the-us-is-pivoting-to-asia/274936/), accessed on July 18, 2020.

[6] Sun Chenghao, “What is the prospect of the U.S. Indo- Pacific strategy?” News CGTN, Nov. 07, 2019 (https://news.cgtn.com/news/2019-11-07/What-is-the-prospect-of-the-U-S-Indo-Pacific-strategy–LqCA9M3YKA/index.html), accessed on July 18, 2020.

[7] Niklas Swanstrom and Par Nyren, “China’s March West: Pitfalls and Chalenges in Greater Central Asia,” Institute for Security & Development Policy, Jan. 10, 2017 (https://www.isdp.eu/publication/chinas-pitfalls-challenges-gca/), accessed on July 20, 2020.

[8] Liam Stack, “Korean War, a ‘Forgotten’ Conflict That Shaped the Modern World,” The New York Times, Jan. 02, 2018 (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/01/world/asia/korean-war-history.html), accessed on July 21, 2020.

[9] Eleanor Albert, “North Korea’s Military Capabilities,” Council on Foreign Relations, Dec. 20, 2019(https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/north-koreas-military-capabilities), accessed on July 17, 2020.

[10] David E. Sanger and Choe Sang-Han, “North Korean Nuclear Test Drawn U.S. Warning of ‘Massive Military Response,’ The New York Times, Sept. 02, 2017 (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/03/world/asia/north-korea-tremor-possible-6th-nuclear-test.html), accessed on July 19, 2020.

[11] Choe Sang-Hun, “Kims Says He’d End North Korea Nuclear Pursuit for U.S. Truce,” The New York Times, April 29, 2018 (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/29/world/asia/north-korea-trump-nuclear.html), accessed on July 20, 2020.

[12] Koji Sonoda, ”Japan’s Security Alliance Dilemma,” The Diplomat, March 24, 2018 (https://thediplomat.com/2018/03/japans-security-alliance-dilemma/), accessed on July 21, 2020.

[13] Japan-Defence Budget, Global Security.org, 2015 (https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/japan/budget.htm), accessed on July 21, 2020.

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Defense

The Credibility of Deterrence is Indispensable

Adeela Ahmed

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In India and Pakistan’s Strategic affairs, the key challenge to Deterrence Stability is India’s inexorable strategic aims. That negates the fragile stable situation and thus motivated Pakistan to modernize its Strategic Doctrine into the Full Spectrum Deterrence (Credible Minimum Deterrence) and successfully counter Indian threats from all the domains. India’s move from No-First Use to War-fighting strategy (Indian Armed Forces Joint Doctrine-2017 and Indian Land Warfare Doctrine-2018) is a signal to accomplish its strategic ambitions for regional domination that resultantly destabilizes the strategic environment of South Asia. So, there is a need to evaluate which are the key factors that are undermining the ‘Credibility of Deterrence’ and that can deter India from taking hostile action against Pakistan. 

The ‘Credibility of Deterrence’ is a noteworthy component as Thomas Schelling, a leading advocate of nuclear deterrence, maintains that the maneuvering of ‘Credibility’ can influence another state’s behaviour not to take any hostile political, and military action. David Robertson, in the Dictionary of Modern Defence and Strategy, described that “Deterrence works with the capability, credibility and will”. Thus the Credibility of Deterrence is the crux of deterrence stability that works effectively with the ‘Capability and ‘Political Will’. 

It is virtually observed in the recent Pulwama Crises (2019) when Pakistan’s decision-makers ‘Political Will’ along with Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) conventional capability enabled Pakistan to respond with a calculated approach against India military misadventure. Pakistan’s military and civil establishments have so far proved that India cannot influence Pakistan with its assertive and offensive policies; and that Pakistan has the will-power to deter Indian aggressive and its so-called surgical strikes. But the important point is that the threat of escalation remains eminent in Pulwama crises. 

The key reason behind such India military adventure is the ‘Political Will of India influenced by RSS philosophy that is contradictory with the obligation of deterrence stability. Therefore, a significant question arises that how the Credibility of deterrence can work in future affairs? It is hard to assess the Credibility of ‘political will’ rather than technical capability; the technical capability of a state can be analyzed however the political will can change with the leadership’s thought process. The political-will is reliant on the nature and a behavior of individuals and systems and in India’s case, Pakistan is dealing with the Ideology of Right-wing Extremism practiced by behind the Indian different political parties (BJP, Congress) India Foreign and Defence establishment. The fuel adds to fire when India gets discriminatory support of the US that gives them the political privilege to compel Pakistan. 

The statements of India high-officials expressed their ‘Will’ in 2019 Pulwama Crises. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Pakistan nuclear arsenal bluff and cleared that our weapons are not for Diwali and then talked about “Qatal Ki Rat”. He further stressed that “Pakistan used to threaten us; it used to say we have a nuclear bomb and we will press the button. I want to say we have double the nuclear capacity. I say (to Pakistan), do whatever you can.” Without realizing the consequences of nuclear war how can be a rational political leader can deliver such speeches. Hence, all these kinds of crude signals emanating from India are a threat to the Credibility of deterrence. Indian Home Minister in the Indian Parliament after the revocation of the Article 370 and 35A in Indian occupied Kashmir has said that the Pakistani part of Jammu and Kashmir is Indian Territory, and we will take it back even if we must sacrifice our lives. Such statements make political and diplomatic environment tensed under the nuclear umbrella and no room vacant for any crises prevention or management.

Along with that the Credibility of deterrence also depends on the fact of how much public opinion supports or opposes the use of nuclear weapons, how they respond in peace and wartime with regards to the employment of atomic weapons. It will influence the strategic thinking of the civil-military leadership. The more the public opinion not in favour of using nuclear weapons, the higher will be the Credibility of nuclear deterrence. But unfortunately, in India Pakistan crises, Indian public media messages, especially in the form of public statements, has remained very unpolished and immature. The trends on twitter and News Channels so-called “raged breaking news” issued without any understanding of the policy impact the stability of the entire region. Such patterns and trajectories on which Indian leadership is moving is a grave threat to regional security. 

Theoretically, the reason behind their irrationality can be i) – the lack of information on which they make irrational judgments, ii) – states fail to communicate threats effectively, iii) – any information gap which leads towards irrational behavior. Unfortunately, irrationality in India originates from their strategic culture. India is in the delusion that she is a regional power state and can influence their dominancy. The way Indian strategic thought is leading the region and altering the dynamics of the Credibility of deterrence is irreversible. The unstable strategic environment of South Asia under the enlightened leadership of India must sense the catastrophe of nuclear war beyond hegemonic ambitions. 

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Defense

China’s Effect: A Global NATO

Emil Avdaliani

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomes Zhang Ming, Ambassador of China to the European Union, 2019, photo via NATO Flickr CC

A shift is taking place in global military thinking. NATO, arguably the most successful military alliance in history, is slowly but steadily edging toward casting China as an outright military competitor. Previously, the collective West avoided involving NATO in the context of the rising China.

Much changed with the advent of Donald Trump. NATO has been undergoing a profound evolution in which it is recalibrating its priorities. We are gradually moving toward a more global NATO with interests that spread beyond its classical zone—Europe—and into the Indo-Pacific region.

Many would argue that the foundation for a global NATO was established long ago. Indeed, for more than a decade, the alliance has been operating in Afghanistan, where it led the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). NATO naval forces were among the first to fight off pirates via the OCEAN SHIELD operation along the east African coast in 2008.

Military training missions have been a common element of NATO involvement in the Middle East. The alliance also responds to terrorism, cyber-threats, and disinformation. Moreover, it enjoys special partnerships (consultative in nature) with Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, and Mongolia.

However, China’s military and economic rise, ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and growing appetite in the Indian and Pacific Oceans in the last decade have brought it into sharp opposition with the US. The latter now sees NATO playing a bigger role in Eurasian affairs, which means taking a tougher stance toward Beijing through the development of a new vision for its outdated Euro-Atlantic-centric model.

This evolution in thinking is reflected in statements by NATO officials. Last December, at the NATO summit, China was declared a concern in a document that said: “[W]e [NATO] recognize that China’s growing influence and international policies present both opportunities and challenges that we need to address together as an Alliance.”

The reasons for this shift are fundamental in nature. It has been argued that China’s official $260 billion defense budget could mask far greater purchasing power, potentially reaching up to 70% of the US defense budget. China’s military cooperation with Russia continues to grow and now covers Central Asia, the Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf, and even the Baltic Sea. Moreover, Beijing’s expanding supply of nuclear weapons can now reach Europe, which, in NATO’s thinking, requires a rethinking of its approach to the Asian giant.

More painful for the alliance is the realization that China has made significant inroads into the European defense market. Recently, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced his country’s purchase of six Chinese-built CH-92A combat drones (UCAVs). This will make the Serbian army the first European military to use Chinese combat drones. Economically, too, China’s rise in Europe is visible in its BRI-related cooperation with Italy, purchase of ports in Greece, extensive relations with Turkey, and establishment of the 17+1 mechanism, which involves Central and Eastern European states.

It can be argued that it is China that came to NATO and not the other way around. China could, indeed, serve as a driver for cohesion within the alliance, which over the past few years has seen internal strife among its member states. NATO was created to counter the Soviet Union on the European mainland, but it must now rise to the new “China reality.” It will have to change its geographical scope and methods of activities.

Though that shift in thinking is taking place within NATO, the alliance remains attached to its vision and wishes to avoid casting China as an outright military enemy. It leaves open the possibility for cooperation, as statements by NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg attest. In recent interviews, Stoltenberg said, “[NATO] does not see China as the new enemy,” “This is not about moving NATO into the South China Sea,” and “It’s about taking into account that China is coming closer to us—in the Arctic, in Africa, investing heavily in our infrastructure in Europe, in cyberspace.”

China does not pose a direct military threat right now, and that is unlikely to change any time soon. But there is an inescapable geopolitical dimension in which China becomes more active in the Arctic, the African continent, and the Indo-Pacific region. In addition, Beijing is negotiating a mammoth trade and economic cooperation treaty with Tehran that will give China the ability to position itself in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea—a major artery for its oil supplies. All of this will require greater coordination and cohesion within NATO.

Critical changes to elements of NATO’s vision could be forthcoming. As China’s power grows, there will be a greater need for the establishment of a NATO-China Council, similar to what the alliance has had with Russia since 1997.

Perhaps deeper engagement with its Pacific partners—Australia, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Japan, and Mongolia—will become a necessity. Even a permanent military presence could be negotiated.

Some elements of this future strategy are already here. Stoltenberg raised the need for the alliance to take on a greater political role in world affairs and even to help nations of the Indo-Pacific compete with China’s rise. “As we look to 2030, we need to work even more closely with like-minded countries like Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and [South] Korea to defend the global rules and institutions that have kept us safe for decades, to set norms and standards in space and cyberspace, on new technologies and global arms control,” Stoltenberg said.

We are witnessing a trend toward a more global NATO in which the alliance’s security agenda is no longer Europe- and North America-centric. This will take at least a decade. A shift in NATO’s vision will also mean that Moscow and its activities in Eurasia will be deemed to be at a lower level of threat.

NATO will have to move eastward. This does not necessarily mean stationing permanent military installations or personnel across Asia, but the alliance will have to pay more attention to Chinese activities. Doing so will draw it closer to Asia and the Indo-Pacific in particular.

Author’s note: first published at BESA Center

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