“This is a decision that could come only from Obama,” a diplomat said. “[T]his reflects his dismay over the Israeli operations, which the president believes could result in a regional war.”
Last month, the U.S. intelligence community reported an Israeli air and naval strike on a recent shipment of the P-800 Yakhont coastal defense system.
“The leaks will continue because there is a lot of resentment within the U.S. intelligence community over Israeli assessments regarding such countries as Egypt, Iran and Syria,” the diplomat said.
So in reality, the advent of the China Coast Guard furnishes little cause for cheer among Asian sea powers. In all likelihood, as my friend Arthur Ding of Taiwan’s National Chengchi University observes, the new agency will step up enforcement actions. If so, it will generate new frictions rather than smooth them out. It will prosecute Beijing’s territorial claims more efficiently and effectively than the previous, motley crew of maritime enforcement services ever could. But hey, at least we’ll know whom to hold responsible!
Sci-fi master Robert Heinlein had a thumb rule for life: never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity, but don’t rule out malice. Creating the China Coast Guard helps rule out bureaucratic stupidity as an explanation for Chinese behavior at sea. Which leaves … hmm.
The creation and implementation of China’s Coast Guard cannot be a good thing for China’s neighbors. Even if it is only an increase in efficiency then it pushes the region further into trouble. Clearly, China is pushing forward with a strategy which will have an increasingly negative impact on its neighbors. Also, it would appear that China keeps taking incremental steps forward, never backward. What happens when things start getting really ugly? For example, China starts sinking ships. Or China loses a battle to Japan. We could start seeing a rapid escalation in conflict. Additionally, the US could be drawn in.
The Japanese government on July 25 said it was alarmed by increased Chinese activity near its territory and said it had scrambled fighter aircraft the previous day after a Chinese surveillance aircraft flew over waters near Okinawa and disputed islets in the East China Sea.
Although it stayed in international waters, the Japanese defense ministry said the presence of the Y-8 early-warning aircraft in the Miyako Strait set a precedent and was a sign of “China’s escalating maritime advance.” People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) warships have entered the Strait before, but this was the first time that a Chinese aircraft flew over the area and crossed beyond the so-called first island chain.
Kalatantari, who serves on president-elect Hassan Rouhani’s transition team and heads research on agricultural at the think tank Rouhani has headed since 1992, went on to say that if the water issue is not addressed, Iran could become “uninhabitable.”
“If this situation is not reformed, in 30 years Iran will be a ghost town. Even if there is precipitation in the desert, there will be no yield, because the area for groundwater will be dried and water will remain at ground level and evaporate.”
Kalatantari is not the only Iranian official who is concerned about the water shortages in the country. Mohammad Hossein Shariatmadari, a former Iranian trade minister, said in April that he believes the water issue is reaching an alarming level. The following month a deputy energy minister similarly warned that the country would soon face a water crisis.
My overall take: Beijing has grown impatient to settle matters on its terms, to the extent of junking the leisurely, relatively low-key “small-stick” approach that held such promise.
The leadership now appears ready to accept the diplomatic blowback that may come from deploying fighting ships alongside the unarmed maritime-surveillance vessels that execute small-stick diplomacy. The Philippine press reports, for instance, that a PLA Navy frigate has joined the bevy of law-enforcement ships at Scarborough Shoal. This hybrid force has enclosed the atoll in a “cabbage” of steel hulls, denying Philippine mariners entry.
The rebalancing of China’s economy could well be one of the most profound stories of the early 21st century. If the rebalancing efforts fail, the significance will be much greater. After years of false starts, it appears that this epic process may finally be getting underway in earnest. At the very least, China’s leaders are making the right noises.
A tremendous amount of political resolve is necessary to stay the course through slowing growth, numerous potential mini-panics, and employment shocks. However, the alternative would prove genuinely disastrous. Although put off for many years, it seems China’s difficult rebalancing process may finally be underway.
The situation on the Korean Peninsula demonstrates why the United States does not and cannot make its nuclear policy in a vacuum. Nor should American nuclear policy orient itself around the ossified Cold War framework which largely took only Russia into account. Soaring rhetoric about nuclear zero from President Obama, negotiating New START, further talk of unilateral drawdowns, a Nuclear Posture Review with the stated goal of moving away from reliance on nuclear weapons, an ever-worsening fiscal picture, and deep cuts to the defense budget – all of these at least raise the question of whether the U.S. guarantee of security under its nuclear umbrella is waning. U.S. allies and enemies alike must surely wonder: what would further cuts in the American nuclear arsenal mean? Would the U. S. have either the will or the capability to respond to a regional crisis?
While South Korea is the most likely state that could next seek nukes, it is by no means the only country that would be impacted be a perceived shrinking of the American nuclear umbrella. Indeed, South Korean efforts to re-start a nuclear program would have a significant impact on Japanese thinking. The same is true in the Middle East, where the development of an uncontested Iranian nuclear weapons program would trigger similar questions about American security guarantees among other American allies.
Countries seek various methods to compensate for adversaries with larger militaries or nuclear weapons: Alliances or developing their own nuclear weapons. If the US is not going to be there then our allies will seek other methods of compensation such as building their own nuclear weapons.
Obama is really pushing strategic instability by eliminating US nuclear weapons. Doing this at the same time the US has gone into decline is extremely dangerous. This is the age of upheaval.
The fact that conventional military power is the strongest factor driving nuclear proliferation should guide how we think about proliferation threats in the future. For instance, if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, its neighbors will be unlikely to follow suit. Not only do these states lack the necessary technical capacity, but they have little to fear from Iran’s nearly non-existent power projection capabilities.
On the other hand, the rise in China’s conventional military strength makes it likely that Eastern Asia will be the region where the most potent proliferation risks emanate from. Countries with territorial disputes with China—first and foremost, Japan— will have the strongest motivation to build the bomb. Unfortunately, for non-proliferation advocates, many of China’s neighbors—including Japan and South Korea— already have robust civilian nuclear programs. This breakout capability will only make it more tempting for policymakers to order a mad dash for the bomb.
Several have many of the same hallmarks as those that have recently experienced unrest.
The last few years have witnessed a wave of youth protest in developing countries, reaching even to developed states. Democracies, or regimes at least posturing nominally as democracies, have been the general target. It is unclear if these movements are cross-pollinating one another, but the similarity in both the profiles of the protestors and their grievances is suggestive. To date, Asia’s democracies have missed this wave, but it is worth noting that the protest profile could easily apply there too.
The youth riots in Brazil, Chile, the European Union, the Arab Middle East, Turkey, and even the “Occupy” movement in the West all reflect what political theory broadly calls the “legitimacy crisis” of modern democracy – the notion that participation in democratic politics does little to change the actual process of government, that elites are dug-in and immoveable, that cronyism is endemic, and so on. Young voters particularly become cynical of the formal electoral process, either dropping out in disdain, or expressing their grievances “extra-parliamentarily”, i.e., on the street. (For example, see this on Australia; or this on Brazil.) To be sure, the Arab Middle East’s pseudodemocracies are something of an exception. Protest there includes far more foundational or revolutionary grievances. But insofar the area’s “republics”, rather than monarchies, have been hit, that too is suggestive of the hopes raised by democratic forms, and then dashed in the minds of younger citizens by corruption and cronyism.
Here we need to look at the process of collapse that affects all societies. Democracies just take longer before the big collapse arrives but it will arrive.
When U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Sochi, Russia, they were supposed to discuss the civil war in Syria. But the Russian leader — joined by his top diplomat, Sergei Lavrov, and defense secretary, Sergei Shoigu — suddenly changed the subject to more mundane matters. A series of U.N. reforms aimed at streamlining billions of dollars of spending on U.N. peacekeeping was posing a threat to Russia’s commercial interests. Putin and his national security team politely but firmly pressed the U.N. leader to back off, according to several senior U.N.-based sources briefed on the meeting.