Connect with us

Defense

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

Published

on

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.

Mehtab Ali Bhatti is pursuing degree of strategic studies from the National Defence University, Islamabad. His major areas of interest include political science, international affairs and security studies.

Continue Reading
Comments

Defense

The East Expands into NATO: Japan’s and South Korea’s New Approaches to Security

Published

on

Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

The 2022 NATO Summit in Madrid can be seen as a momentous occasion not just for NATO but also for security in the Asia-Pacific. For the first time in NATO’s 73-year-long history, Japanese and South Korean leaders participated in the meeting as “Asia-Pacific partners”. For the first time, the Alliance named China a threat in their documents. However, having approached the hic sunt dracones (here be dragons) mark, NATO and its partners will soon have to think about the limits and purpose of expanding the organization’s areas of activity.

The Bargaining Yen

Fumio Kishida was Japan’s first premier to ever attend a NATO summit. Japan’s leader called for enhancing Tokyo’s ties with NATO based on the 2014 Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme. However, he also proposed permanently attaching representatives of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces to NATO’s headquarters, mutually exchanging observers at military drills, as well as to regularly involve Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea in NATO’s activities.

We should note Japan’s rather loose interpretation of the concept of indivisible security. For instance, Russia and China insist that the security of any state cannot be bolstered at the expense of other states. However, Kishida believes that security in Europe and the Indo-Pacific are inseparable from each other; therefore, attempts to change the status quo by force in any region should be stopped through joint efforts.

As part of the steps taken to assist European partners amid the events in Ukraine, Tokyo imposed additional sanctions on 70 Russian individuals and companies since Japan “is not ready to provide any military support to the Alliance.” In exchange, Japan hopes that NATO will fully support Japan’s course for militarization. Particularly, Japan is expected to publish its revised National Security Strategy to replace the 2013 Strategy by the end of 2022. Over five years, “the land of the rising sun” will ramp up its defense capabilities by significantly increasing its spending (up to 2% of the GDP) and by stepping up its interactions with the U.S. It is also possible that the Strategy will, for the first time, name China as a clear and present danger to Japan—previously, Tokyo avoided openly labelling China as its adversary.

The West heard the Japanese leadership’s message of European stability being impossible without eliminating the threats in the Asia-Pacific. Ultimately, the NATO 2022 Strategic Concept that determines the activities of member states for the next ten years states that Beijing’s “ambitions and coercive policies challenge our interests, security and values.” Principal threats include China’s non-transparent conventional and nuclear military build-up, malicious hybrid and cyber operations, confrontational rhetoric and disinformation, attempts to control key technological and industrial sectors, critical infrastructure, and strategic materials and supply chains, and creating strategic dependencies intended to subvert the rules-based international order, including in the space, cyber and maritime domains.

The list would certainly have been incomplete without sending an alarm regarding the deepening strategic partnership between Moscow and Beijing. NATO’s Madrid Summit declaration also contains a statement on competition with China and on Beijing’s challenge to NATO members’ security and development.

At the summit’s sidelines, Kishida attended a trilateral meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden and South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol, and then a quadrilateral meeting with South Korea’s President and Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The leaders discussed the threats from China and North Korea, while the U.S. President reaffirmed guarantees to every party present military aid in case of an attack on their states. At the same time, it appears that the idea of putting China on NATO’s agenda and generally under the organization’s purview had been spearheaded by Washington that has less and less strength and willingness to challenge the “dragon” to an honest battle.

Korean Tanks in Polish Woods

Similar to Japan’s leader, South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol noted in his debut NATO summit address that security in any given region has global ramifications. Consequently, a crisis cannot be resolved through the efforts of a regional alliance or union. Therefore, South Korea’s President announced plans to consistently bolster security cooperation between Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo, primarily for counteracting the threat of North Korea’s nuclear missile program. Moreover, since, in Yoon Suk Yeol’s opinion, Pyongyang’s actions posit a major threat to peace and stability and to the non-proliferation regime, all NATO members will need to assist in resolving this problem. Generally, South Korea raised the issue of North Korea’s denuclearization at every event at the Madrid Summit, including the plenary session, the three-party meeting between the leaders of the U.S., Japan, and South Korea, and a dozen of bilateral talks.

In turn, in order to bolster European security, Seoul is ready to expand its economic interactions with NATO states—in particular, to ensure uninterrupted deliveries of semi-conductors—assist in building NPPs and modernizing power facilities, and also ramp up military technical cooperation. Among the successes already achieved by the South Koreans is an agreement to deliver FA-50 jet trainers/light combat aircraft, K-2 main battle tanks, K-9 self-propelled howitzers and AS21 IFVs to Poland, and to participate in building NPPs in the UK, the Czech Republic, Poland, France, Romania and the Netherlands.

Curiously, unlike Japan, Yoon Suk Yeol avoided in every way directly mentioning Beijing in connection with threats to global and regional security. Moreover, Seoul believes that South Korea’s interactions, both with NATO and otherwise, should not be aimed against any specific country. Even though some surveys indicate that only 26% of South Koreans have a positive opinion of China, the country’s leadership is not prepared to oppose Beijing and fully commit to U.S.-led containment initiatives. Besides, in the near future, Yoon Suk Yeol’s administration will have to explain to China its own plans to deploy a second THAAD missile defense unit and Seoul actively arming its navy, air force, and ground forces with state-of-the-art strike missile weapons.

Despite of both Japanese and South Korean leaders attending the 2022 NATO Summit, questions still remain regarding normalizing relations between Seoul and Tokyo. The parties noted that there is potential for improvements and the problems of the past and the future would need to be discussed together. At the same time, internal forces in both states have very mixed feelings concerning the prospects of setting up practical interactions on security issues. Kishida’s government is concerned with South Korea’s growing military capabilities, unacceptable compensation demands to victims of the Japanese occupation, and its intractable stance on the Liancourt Rocks (Dokdo/Takeshima islands). Particularly, Japan vehemently protested Korea’s military drill around the islands on July 30, 2022, although this time the drill was far more modest than before and did not involve a beach landing. One of the few shared sentiments between Seoul and Tokyo is their negative attitude to North Korea’s nuclear missile program, although Japan’s current potential for resolving this matter via talks is small since Tokyo has virtually completely severed contacts with Pyongyang.

Beyond the Purview

According to Le Monde, NATO’s focus on the events in Ukraine does not mean that the Alliance is ignoring threats emanating from beyond the organization’s traditional purview, for instance, like those from the Asia-Pacific. Asia-Pacific’s “collective West” representatives gradually expanding their involvement in the region evidences both the Alliance’s transformation into a certain global security body, and Seoul’s and Tokyo’s transforming approaches to protecting their interests by expanding their partnership network.

Japan is already a member of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) whose principal and implicit goal is to form a counterbalance to China. In Kishida’s opinion voiced on June 10, 2022 at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Russia’s actions in Ukraine may spur a similar scenario in Asia Pacific, particularly toward Taiwan, especially given a recent surge in the regional activities of China’s People’s Liberation Army. That, however, did not prevent Japan from sending a parliamentary delegation, including two former defense ministers, to Taipei to “discuss extensively the regional security situation in Taiwan, especially in the context of the Russia-Ukraine military conflict.” In this situation, it would be odd to expect anything from Beijing except a protest boosted by military aircraft patrolling around the island.

Yoon Suk Yeol seems intent on significantly increasing South Korea’s role in regional affairs by using the image of a liberal democracy in a crusade against authoritarian regimes around it. However, Seoul intends to wage such a battle solely against the neighboring regime, and even that is not quite a real crusade with clearly defined results. Getting North Korea, to abandon its nuclear weapons though intimidation during an exacerbating East Asian crisis is utterly impossible, particularly in view of Kim Jong Un’s proclaimed readiness for any military action against the U.S.

NATO believes that comprehensive security cooperation with “partners in Asia Pacific” should be conducive to making the international situation more predictable. However, given the Alliance’s track record, should it interfere in the Korean Peninsula or in the Taiwan Strait, there will be little cause to expect a positive outcome.

From our partner RIAC

Continue Reading

Defense

A war where the machine decides who to kill! (LAWs wars)

Published

on

Which country wants to be attacked by an AI-controlled system with no one in command? Which country wants their soldiers to be killed by an autonomous machine, and potentially, some civilians by mistake? The answer is evidently no one! No country wants that. But which country intends to possess such weapons, then the answer is more ambiguous. The last report of the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) reflects this. After a week (25-29 July) of discussion at the Palais des Nations, UN Geneva, the adopted report is hollowed without meaningful conclusion or commitments.

Lethal autonomous weapons

Lethal autonomous weapons (LAWs) are military system that can autonomously search for and engage targets based on programmed constraints and descriptions. LAWs are also known as killer robots.

Autonomous weapons have existed for many years; for example, land mines trigger and kill or an injury without any human action. With emerging technology, including AI, we understand the interest of certain states to include these technologies in weapons to improve their autonomy. Since the 70s, the US has used the Phalanx CIWS, which can autonomously identify and attack incoming missiles. With AI, its capacities are considerably increased! Continuing with the example of mines, Russia’s anti-personnel mines of the POM-3 type are particularly deadly. They are disseminated in the land of operations but do not explode immediately. When activated, they rise in the air before exploding and causing multiple ravages, which can be fatal within a radius of 16 meters. Equipped with sensors and software, they choose their target, when they explode or not, depending on the identity of the people or equipment that approach. There are, unfortunately, so many other systems that will be too long to cite here. To conclude this part, in Libya in 2020, a Kargu 2 drone hunted down and attacked a human target. According to a report from the UN Security Council’s Panel of Experts on Libya, published in March 2021. This may have been the first time an autonomous killer robot armed with lethal weaponry attacked human beings. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_robot]

We quickly understand all potential ethical and legal issues. Autonomous systems can make mistakes; who is responsible then? Like mine killed millions of civilians, new systems may have bias and kill unstintingly, with no one to stop them. The range of potential problems is extensive.

A slow-downed convention

For nine years, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons or CCW, also known as the Inhumane Weapons Convention, has tried to regulate it with its GGE. For the most ambitious, it would be a question of agreeing on a treaty, or another international instrument, which would guarantee the prohibition that a weapon can operate autonomously, i.e., without the intervention of human supervision. Many Latin Americans, and European states are now advocating for this outright ban. The answer is less clear-cut for other states, including the USA. They consent to the prohibition of specific weapon systems as well as to a certain regulation but refuse a binding legal framework. Finally, Russia is slowing down all negotiations and reducing its content.

Russia and the game of consensus

A majority of States are now convinced of the need to act significantly, even asking for more days to debate in 2023. But the main problem is the rule of consensus, which prohibits any discussion breakthrough”.

Many little disagreements, for instance, delegations, wasted time discussing whether the CCW is an appropriate forum or the only appropriate forum for dealing with the issue of autonomous weapons.

These discussions have even been theatrical when Russia attacked many times the presence of civil societies to limit their intervention and participation in informal meetings. It was a tool to slow down the discussion, focusing the debate on organizational points. At the same time, we can also be afraid that this Russian posture is appearing in others GGEs. Meanwhile, some other states, like Israel and India, are discrete and do not oppose it. They probably use this condition to their advantage. Russia is doing all the work for them.

Therefore with the refusal of a few states, all the details about elements and possible measures for an agreement on autonomous weapons were removed. All conclusions about what kinds of control are necessary, and possible processes to achieve that control, were taken out. The present conclusions section just outlines the types of proposals discussed, recognizes ethical perspectives, and repeats the respect for international humanitarian law. It confirms then that states are responsible for wrongful acts in accordance with international law [link to report], so no new laws. 

Not only are the conclusions disappointing, but the way the discussion was carried out was disappointing, and the mandate for 2023 remains uncertain.

We can not wait on CCW, the urgency of the problem is too critical.

The slow process is to the advantage of countries using these technologies. The Russian POM-3 mines, for instance, have been used in Ukraine, accordingly to Human Right Watch. The development and deployment by Russia and other countries will continue as long as no agreement is reached. LAWs have to be outlaws! And the CCW seems not to be anymore the right platform.

Continue Reading

Defense

Escalating Big Power Contestation on Taiwan: Can It Lead to War?

Published

on

Xi Jinping is seeking to hide his humiliation over US Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. His premature and unjustifiable warning to the US about the visit caused him embarrassment, and Pelosi’s purposeful visit after the warning not only hyped it, but humiliated him. China is using its Three Warfare Concept  which entails public opinion warfare, psychological warfare, and legal warfare along with aggressive military posturing, air violations, firepower power exhibition and some symbolic economic boycott of Taiwan, thus creating  heightened tension around Taiwan as a face saving exercise to amuse its domestic constituency. China is attempting to turn it as an opportunity to stoke national sentiments in favour of Xi Jinping on ‘Anti America’ theme highlighting Chinese mutilated version of his heroics to ensure that he doesn’t lose out on his third term in the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) later this year.

The US side has likewise been under similar pressures. Following the announcement of Pelosi’s visit and the contentious debate between President Xi Jinping and Joe Biden, the US found itself in a difficult situation. The USA was unable to cancel the trip in response to Xi’s warning because doing so would have indicated that Joe Biden was caving in to Chinese pressure. This would have been catastrophic for the Biden Administration, which is already struggling to recover from the disaster in Afghanistan and the difficulties brought on by the Russia-Ukraine War. Although the visit was a risky move, it is still unclear whether the US will follow it up by replacing strategic ambiguity with strategic clarity to support Taiwan in any prospective Chinese attack or not.

Can it Lead to War?

With unprecedented military posturing by China, live missile fire  East of Taiwan close to its coastline, and US aircraft carrier and maritime forces located not too far, the situation is tense and prone to accidental trigger causing escalation. It does not make any strategic sense for China to invade Taiwan, as it has all the negatives except false bravado, with bright chances of loss of face globally and domestically, in case the operations fail; hence, likely to contend with activities short of war.

Chinese strategist Qiao Liang, a retired PLA Air Force Major General, has warned that taking Taiwan by force is ‘Too Costly’. Chinese redline of “Taiwan going nuclear/declaring independence” has not been crossed as yet, giving no justification for China to cross US red line of ‘Changing status Quo by Force’. Xi Jinping may find it too costly to take such a risk before sealing his third term. The military drills near Taiwan have been conducted by Taiwan and US also in past and  the much publicised blockade of Taiwan through military drills, if prolonged may invite similar military drills by US and other democracies in Malacca Strait too, to block Chinese Sea Lines of Communication, beyond the realm of optics of the current Chinese aggressive posture, and it is well aware of this vulnerability.    

Taiwanese President Tsai has bravely given bold statements during visit of Speaker Pelosi and earlier to take on Chinese aggression. Taiwan with its national spirit, modern arsenal from US, determined armed forces and US backing is unlikely to give a walkover, although the first onslaught of potential offensive will have to be borne by it, till global response gets activated. Comparisons are being made with Hong Kong, but the major differences is that leadership, hierarchy in Hong Kong and police was manipulated by CCP, whereas  the leadership in Taiwan is strong and resolute refusing to give in to Chinese coercion. The need for amphibious assault due to terrain friction makes Chinese misadventure in Taiwan more difficult than Hong Kong.

Chinese amphibious capabilities to capture Taiwan are suspect, more so if US warships like the USS Ronald Reagan are around. China has enough missile arsenals to destroy Taiwan, but such a massive destruction of Han Chinese (95 percent of Taiwanese population is Han), who have relations, investments and inseparable linkages with their relatives in mainland and vice versa will not go well with domestic population of mainland. Over two million Taiwanese live in China, mostly in Coastal areas, and over 20 per cent have married there.

This will also destroy Chinese and Taiwanese economy, which does not suit Chinese leadership struggling to revive its economy marred by trade war, failing BRI and COVID effect. China is top destination for Taiwanese export accounting for approximately 40% of total exports, with Taiwan having  overall trade surplus of US$104.7 billion in 2021 with China.

A public opinion poll in Taiwan in 2020 indicated 73 percent people identified themselves as Taiwanese, who were against China, and 77 percent  supported democratic movement in Hongkong and this figure has increased in last two years. Getting Taiwanese under its wings will also bring a fresh democratic wave in China, which CCP may not be used to handle. Taiwanese people do not want to sacrifice their democratic freedom and prosperity, which is the main reason for success of President Tsai. The conflict if imposed by China will be deadly and Chinese, who want to win without fighting are not known for their appetite to accept body bags of Han Chinese, for a cause which doesn’t give them economic benefit but takes it away its dream of national rejuvenation, as indicated by General Qiao. 

Why Taiwan is a US-China Issue?

PRC may keep claiming Taiwan to be its domestic issue, but it has much greater external dimensions. Diplomatically US may claim to follow ‘One China Policy’ but it treats Taiwan no less than an ally. The Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act of 2019, effective from March 26, 2020 is an indication. The Taiwan Relation Act,1973, Taiwan Travel Act signed 2019, and National Defence Authorisation Act signed earlier this year to facilitate sale of state of the art weaponry and joint exercises justify the statement. US will always like to trade and strategically partner with democratic Taiwan outside Beijing’s influence, and not Taiwan under CCP.

In any potential invasion of Taiwan, the spill over of the battle space to Japan is obvious due to geographic proximity, an ally which US is obligated to protect. Chinese initial offensive can be on Taiwan, but US could join forces with its allies in the region to use their sea and air advantages to cut off Beijing’s maritime lifeline in and outside South China Sea. Chinese supply lines outside Nine dash line are still vulnerable to choking, and it will draw out PLA to get into war outside its comfort Zone. Taking Taiwan by force, therefore involves mobilisation of all its combat resources, expecting an escalation from limited war to an all-out war, as the operation amounts to crossing US redline of “No Change in Status Quo of Taiwan”. Economically Chinese heavy reliance on the US dollar is far from over, and such a war over Taiwan would be a massive economic blow to China, that would see capital flooding out, and companies moving of the country, much sooner than it thought.

Way Ahead

If Chinese aggressive posturing, air incursions and military drills announced for four days end as scheduled without escalation, may be that situation may still remain under control, as US and Taiwan have also done military drills in that region earlier. If it escalates into an attempt to unite Taiwan by force, it will certainly up the ante with US, prove China as irresponsible bully, may lead to loss of life of Han Chinese both ways, lead to economic destruction of its one of the largest investors and jeopardise China’s goal of national rejuvenation. Internationally, China may have miscalculated US resolve and Taiwan’s resistance and all may not go their way. If Chinese ambitions grow beyond global tolerance, it has bright chances to bring rest of the world against China. While the visit of Nancy Pelosi may have given a strong message to China, but the US resolve is still under test, because Taiwan can’t be expected to handle Chinese aggression alone, more so if it has been hyped by super power contestation. US therefore must consider starting similar military exercise in Malacca Strait with other navies to remind China of its vulnerable SLOC before it starts blocking Taiwanese shipping.

The aggressive posturing in Taiwan Strait, South and East China Sea will continue, even if the current crisis slows down. PRC’s aim is to pressurise President Tsai Not to declare independence, keep pressure on, hope DPP loses next election and work out favourable arrangements with opposition likely to be favourable to China. Neither China nor US want war, but none wants to give walkover as well, hence this strategic gaming and posturing is on and will continue.

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Trending