Saturday, May 31, 2014

• Chinese aggression: Abe stresses ‘rule of law’ in oceans Saturday, May 31, 2014

Saturday, May 31, 2014

By Seima Oki
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers a keynote speech at the Asia Security Summit in Singapore on Friday.

SINGAPORE—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe emphasized the importance of “the rule of law” in the oceans in his speech at the Asia Security Summit, which started Friday in Singapore, apparently eyeing China’s provocative actions in the East China Sea and the South China Sea.

In the speech at the meeting, which was organized by Britain’s International Institute for Strategic Studies, Abe expressed an intention to help member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) strengthen their ocean surveillance capabilities.

Abe also said Japan will provide 10 new patrol boats to the Philippines.

In his speech, Abe cited three principles regarding the rule of law in the oceans:
—Nations should present their claims based on laws.
—Nations should not use force or threat to pass their claims.
—Nations should thoroughly aim to resolve conflicts through peaceful settlements.

The remarks seemed to be aimed at China as Chinese fighters flew unusually close to Self-Defense Forces planes over the East China Sea on May 24, and China has unilaterally begun to develop natural resources in the South China Sea.

“Taking our alliance with the United States as the foundation and respecting our partnership with ASEAN, Japan will spare no effort to establish regional stability, peace and prosperity,” Abe said.

Asia-Pacific Defense Ministers Voice Dismay Over China

Comments Come as Tensions Simmer Between China and Vietnam Over Waters Claimed by Both Parties

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel accused China of taking "destabilizing, unilateral actions" that undermined the rule of law on the second day of The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) 13th Asia Security Summit in Singapore. 

SINGAPORE—Defense ministers from several Asia-Pacific powers on Saturday voiced their dismay over China's recent assertiveness in territorial disputes, as regional opinion appeared to coalesce against Beijing's perceived role in stoking diplomatic tensions.

At an international security summit in Singapore, top defense officials from Australia and Vietnam joined the U.S. and Japan in criticizing—either explicitly or using thinly veiled language—what they saw as China's unilateral efforts to pursue territorial claims in the East and South China seas.
China has come under increasing criticism from its Asia neighbors since recently deploying an oil-drilling platform in waters claimed by Vietnam, along with other steps to assert its territorial claims. 
Beijing says its actions are normal activities in areas it considers its own territory—a view challenged by its rivals in those disputes, including members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

"We share the serious concerns expressed by Asean over recent developments, which have served to raise tensions and temperature in that region," Australian Defense Minister David Johnston told the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual gathering of top defense and military officials.

"The use of force or coercion to unilaterally alter the status quo in the East China Sea and the South China Sea is simply not acceptable," said Mr. Johnston, who didn't explicitly target Beijing in his speech.

Vietnam's defense minister, Gen. Phung Quang Thanh, meanwhile rapped China for acting outside of international law by placing an oil-drilling platform in waters that Hanoi claims falls within its exclusive economic zone.

"Vietnam has exercised utmost restraint," and is seeking "high-level" talks with Beijing to resolve their differences, said Gen. Thanh, adding that Hanoi could seek international legal recourse against China if peaceful dialogue fails to produce results.

Their comments came after top U.S. and Japanese leaders at the summit served up back-to-back criticism of Chinese aggression in the South China Sea, arguing that Beijing's efforts to bolster its territorial claims risk undermining the international order that has underpinned Asian prosperity since the end of World War II.

On Friday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe denounced what he called unilateral efforts to alter the strategic status quo in Asia, in remarks clearly aimed at China. 
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel followed his lead on Saturday, directly accusing China of taking "destabilizing, unilateral actions" that undermined the rule of law.
Chinese defense officials on hand at the summit returned the criticism in kind. 
Major General Zhu Chenghu told The Wall Street Journal that the charges were "groundless" and that "the Americans are making very, very important strategic mistakes right now" in their approach to dealing with China.

Gen. Zhu, who is a professor at China's National Defense University, accused Mr. Hagel of hypocrisy in his assessment of the region's security landscape, suggesting that in his view 
"whatever the Chinese do is illegal, and whatever the Americans do is right." 
Another Chinese general grilled Mr. Hagel in a question-and-answer session, challenging him on America's repeated claim that it does not take sides in territorial disputes.
China did not send its top-level defense officials to the Shangri-La gathering, instead relying on a number of English-speaking academics and PLA officers to rebuff accusations against Beijing.

However, the views they expressed are reflective of a deep sense of mistrust within the People's Liberation Army towards the Obama administration's "pivot" to Asia, and America's true intentions towards China.

Other Asean defense chiefs at the summit avoided blaming China in their respective speeches, but appealed broadly for regional unity in handling territorial disputes.

"Asean must stand united together on several key defense issues, and not be pulled in different directions," Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said in a speech.

Mr. Hishammuddin avoided direct criticism of China, but appeared to make a pointed call to Beijing to take steps to ease tensions with Asean. 
"Major powers must sincerely understand us," he said.

Chinese menace: Japan-ASEAN ties 'may stabilize balance of power'

No country in Asia can do more to help strengthen international order, rules, and norms than Japan. With tensions rising in Asia over China's growing assertiveness, Japan has vowed to play a larger role in regional security. The move may help neighboring countries defend the status quo.


"Japan will offer its utmost support for the efforts of the countries of ASEAN as they work to ensure the security of the seas and the skies, and thoroughly maintain freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight," said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday, May 30 in a keynote speech at the Asia Security Summit in Singapore, known as the Shangri-La Dialogue. 
The speech comes amid tensions between China and its neighbors over Beijing's growing assertiveness.
China claims almost the entire oil- and gas-rich South China Sea and rejects rival claims to parts of it from Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. 
Tensions recently escalated between Hanoi and Beijing after China placed a giant oil rig in waters claimed by both countries, with the two communist countries trading accusations of responsibility for aggravating the situation.
In a DW interview, Zack Cooper, a fellow with the Japan Chair at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), explains why increased Japan-ASEAN ties may strengthen regional security.

Are we witnessing a Japanese reaction to China's "oil rig diplomacy?"
Prime Minister Abe's comments are a reaction not only to China's oil rig diplomacy with Vietnam, or maritime stand-off with the Philippines, but to the continuing trend of China's increasingly assertive actions against its neighbors.
Although Prime Minister Abe is one of the few Asian leaders willing to publicly express concern about China's increasing assertiveness in the East and South China Seas, he is certainly not alone in these sentiments.
Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, India, South Korea and others have all experienced Chinese pressure regarding territorial disputes in recent months and years. 
Separately, these countries are likely to struggle to uphold their claims in the face of Chinese assertiveness, but together (and with backing from the United States) these countries have a better chance of defending the status quo and convincing China to observe international rules and norms surrounding peaceful resolution of territorial disputes.

Is Abe's speech likely to ease or rather heighten regional tensions?

In my view, it is China that has raised tensions in the region, and the question for its neighbors is whether they should simply accept China's salami-slicing tactics, or attempt to uphold the existing status quo.

I believe Japan's efforts to form a stronger regional counterweight to China by weaving together regional states are likely to increase regional security in the long-term. 
As Prime Minister Abe said earlier this week, "The world security environment is changing a great deal. No one country can defend itself alone."

This sentiment is often echoed in Southeast Asia, which has long focused on working together to ensure regional stability and prosperity. 
As a result, Japan's growing cooperation with its Southeast Asian neighbors should help strengthen the regional security environment and help stabilize the regional balance of power.
How willing is Japan to support other Asian countries involved in maritime disputes with China, such as say Vietnam or the Philippines?
Prime Minister Abe appears to have made clear that Japan will "offer its utmost support” to countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). 
Japan has strong and longstanding positive ties with Southeast Asian countries and shared interests in promoting political stability, regional security, economic growth, and good governance in the region.

Japan already works with the Philippines on maritime security issues, providing patrol craft to help the Philippines police its waters, and Vietnam and Japan are reportedly discussing similar cooperation. 
Japan may also be able to help these and other states develop the capabilities and operational concepts needed to defend their territorial claims without escalating tensions.

What does the US government make of Japan playing a greater role in Asian security issues?
The United States welcomes a more proactive Japanese role in regional security, although US leaders have been careful not to prejudge Japan's own domestic decision-making processes on collective self-defense or other national decisions.

As US President Obama outlined in a speech at West Point a few days ago, US leaders are going to be increasingly reliant on strong regional allies and partners. 
Nowhere is this more true than in Asia. 
And no country in Asia can do more to help strengthen international order, rules, and norms than Japan.
As the second-largest economy and closest US ally in the region, an expanded Japanese role is vital not only for regional security but also to demonstrate to the United States that it has strong allies and partners to help it maintain order in East Asia.
The question for China's neighbors is whether they should accept Beijing's salami-slicing tactics or attempt to uphold the status quo, says Cooper.

Abe's government is trying to ease constitutional restraints on Japan's military, which can be used only in its own self-defense. How do you assess Abe's chances of successfully changing the constitution for this purpose?
Prime Minister Abe has two options for easing Japanese self-defense restraints. 
The easier option is to alter Japan's interpretation of the constitution while the more difficult option is to change the constitution itself.

Changing the constitution will require much political capital, a vital resource that might be spent elsewhere, but if Abe deems this critical to Japan's future, he may be able to build the necessary coalition to do so, although this will take time.