Nuclear umbrellas in East Asia and the Middle East

China must act forcefully to stop North Korea and Pakistan from expanding their nuclear arsenals

The Obama administration tasted its first—and crunching—diplomatic defeat at the hands of the North Korean regime last week. After threatening to interdict North Korean ships, just about the only action the US government will take in response to North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests is that the US navy will effectively merely tail those ships around, not stop, board or seize them.

Washington might be helpless in stopping North Korea from expanding its nuclear arsenal or periodically threaten its neighbours, but it can protect South Korea (and quite likely Japan) under the US nuclear umbrella. Yesterday, Mr Obama signaled just that. According to Yonsei University’s Chung Min Lee “This sent a strong signal to North Korea. The move should also allay concerns in some quarters that South Korea and Japan may need to pursue their own nuclear options.” Unfortunately, even this is insufficient to create a stable nuclear balance based on mutual deterrence.

The missing factor is China. Continue reading “Nuclear umbrellas in East Asia and the Middle East”

Think MacArthur and Marshall

The United States fixed Japan in six years. It should use the same formula in Pakistan

On September 2003, in the first week of its existence, The Acorn wrote:

There is no point in giving any aid to Pakistan without simultaneously strengthening its democratic institutions and disarming its military-intelligence complex. It needs more of a MacArthur like intervention which reforged Japan into a dynamic modern nation. [Can Pakistan be saved?]

For much of the last five years, the United States did neither. And then in 2008 it was forced into withdrawing support for General Musharraf’s dictatorship. That only caused the military-intelligence complex to claw back.

Yet Change.gov, the Obama-Biden transition website, has nothing much by way of change. It says “Obama and Biden will increase nonmilitary aid to Pakistan and hold them accountable for security in the border region with Afghanistan.” The United States continues to think that some variation of giving aid and supporting democratic institutions will somehow work, and the military-intelligence complex can be humoured, won over or simply left alone. Worse, despite being directly affected, India will continue to accept this.

The United States refuses to learn from its own history. Between 1945-1951, a period of just six years, General Douglas MacArthur occupied Japan, reconstructed its war-torn economy, demilitarised the state, fixed the education system and instituted a democracy that has endured since then. It should do the same with Pakistan—and it might not even have to drop two nuclear bombs either, for the Pakistan’s rulers know that much history. Hey, that’s what Robert Kagan was saying.

Update:: General MacArthur’s gameplan (linkthanks Pragmatic)

Flying in to Japan on August 30 a few hours after he had received from Washington the text of the initial policy he was to carry out, he paraphrased the actions he was to take:
First, destroy the military power. Punish war criminals. Build the structure of representative government. Modernize the constitution. Hold free elections. Enfranchise the women. Release the political prisoners. Liberate the farmers. Establish a free labor movement. Encourage a free economy. Abolish police oppression. Develop a free and responsible press. Liberalize education. Decentralize political power. Separate the church from state. [Winners in Peace/EScholarship]

Sounds just like the kind of agenda for Pakistan.

India-Japan security ties not targeted at Papua New Guinea

Why PNG?

Unnamed Indian officials in Tokyo sought to drive home the point that India was not going to allow its ties with Tokyo to affect its relations with Port Moresby. Indeed, in a press conference at the residence of Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso on Wednesday evening, Dr Singh sought to emphasise that India’s economic relations and security cooperation with Japan would not be “at the cost of any third country, least of all Papua New Guinea.” [With due respect to Siddharth Varadarajan]

Then why mention PNG, you ask? Well, then why mention the PRC? It is not as if the good people in Beijing will be convinced by mere words. As TOI reports, “the fact that India has showed up in China after concluding a security and defence agreement with Japan will have its impact here.” Indian officials may well say Vienna is behind them, but looking ahead, China is reinvigorating its efforts to prevent India from securing a seat on the UN Security Council.

There was no need to mention China. Doing so evokes mental images of the need to kowtow. Surely, the Prime Minister of India does not need to do that?

By Invitation: On Rivals in Asia

A review of Bill Emmott’s Rivals: How the Power Struggle Between China, India and Japan Will Shape Our Next Decade

By V Anantha Nageswaran

Mr Bill Emmott, former Editor-in-Chief of “Economist” has written another book. It is on China, Japan and India and is appropriately titled, Rivals. The temptation to go for “Pillars of the new Asian century” would have been too high to resist for some others. But, Mr Emmott is not one of those woolly eyed observers of Asia to take the common consent that this would be Asia’s century for granted. He sees plenty of risks and rightly so.  

For the most part, the book is an engaging and easy read. As it winds down, the pace appears to slacken and the reader gets impatient. But that could quite legitimately be put down to the reader’s unjustified lack of interest in the subject of North and South Korea that comes up in the end. The book has at least two fascinating chapters on the environmental risks of the rise of China and India, not just to the rest of the world but also to themselves. Whereas India’s pollution comes from its poverty, China’s comes from its breakneck capacity addition. In other words, the story of India’s pollution and environmental decay is in its early chapters. 
Continue reading “By Invitation: On Rivals in Asia”

The Quad is dead

Australia has decided that it pays to be nice to China

There’s an interesting discussion going on down under about the death of the “Quad”, a grouping involving India, Japan, Australia and the United States. It was not only seen as an Asia-Pacific “concert of democracies”, but more importantly, as a quiet attempt to balance China’s rising power in the region.

Over at the Lowy Interpreter, Raoul Hienrichs argues that more than the election of pro-China governments in Japan and Australia, the Quad died because China killed it (peacefully, of course).

But there is also something quite revealing about this dynamic. That the Rudd Government did not have to explicitly defer to China’s concerns, because Tokyo and New Dehli had already backed away from the quadrilateral arrangement, is itself a clear indication of China’s rising influence and perhaps Washington’s gradual relative decline in Asia. Moreover, China’s willingness to use its considerable diplomatic weight to prevent the emergence of a regional grouping perceived to be inimical to its interests suggests a new level of confidence in China’s foreign and strategic policy, and an increased awareness among its policy makers of their capacity to independently shape China’s strategic environment. [Lowy Interpreter]

Clearly, at a time when the Australian economy is witnessing a sustained boom thanks to resource exports to China, and that the economic news coming out of the United States is getting worse, the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s government might have calculated that now is not the time to attempt to balance China. Snubbing Japan, though, was wholly unnecessary. For if ever Australia changes its mind on its own position vis-a-vis China’s strategic rise, Japan, India and the United States are the only ones it can count on. For them, the interests that led to the move towards the quadrilateral initiative are fundamental—even if current governments are lukewarm about a showy new regional grouping.