Time To Upgrade Quad Alliance To The Next Level

th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, which met in 2017, was a coming out party of President Xi Jinping. China was ready to abandon Deng Xiopeng’s advice to keep its head down and work at developing the nation into a moderately prosperous nation ready to take its rightful place in the world stage. The need to spread Socialism with Chinese characteristics for other countries to follow was a message which was echoed by Xi in the Congress. So if Shinzo Abe was concerned about China’s rise in 2007, it has intensified manifold now. So a fresh attempt is now being made to revive the quadrilateral now being referred simply as the quad.  Shinzo Abe is well entrenched as the PM. He has taken up the unfinished project. Despite thriving trade ties with China, the two countries have been traditional enemies. India, Japan and the US are keen. The Conservative Party in Australia is too, but a Labour government would not be as enthusiastic. A first meeting of the quad officials was held in Manila in 2017 ahead of the ASEAN summit in the Philippines. So far it is confined to the official level with no formal meeting of the political leaders. But much ground has been covered in Track 2, the informal process. The Sasakawa Peace Foundation, invited the Vivekananda Foundation of India (which works closely with the government), National Security College of Australia of Australian National University and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation US, for a conferences in February 2017 and 2018, {countries with stakes in the Indian Ocean Region, with shared democratic values} to put their heads together and put together a plan for a free and open security structure for in the Indo-Pacific and the Indian Ocean. Experts from four countries have brought out their recommendations which were released in Delhi last week. Has the time come for the quad to take off? Taking quad to the next level would be to upgrade it to the political sphere, where foreign ministers of the four countries and a Summit down the line. India will not be in a hurry to raise the level of representation just yet. This is especially so post Wuhan, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping tried to repair ties after the Doklam standoff. Delhi will wait and watch. India needs peace in the neighbourhood and focus on lifting millions out of poverty. So while supporting the quad, Delhi is likely to confine it to the official level so as not to spoil ties in China. Australian politics is in a flux. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has just been replaced by Scott Morisson. The ruling party has a majority of one in parliament. Australia’s trade with China is huge, and opinion is divided whether Australia can afford to be at logger heads with China. Much depends on which political party is in power. Japan is enthusiastic about the quad and would prefer it to raise it to the summit level. US President Donald Trump now engaged in a trade war with China and China bashing, will be in a mood to support upgrading the quad. The quad is certainly going to be an important player in future. The effort will however be to get more countries on boars for a loose alliance to protect the freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific and the Indian Ocean.]]>

Shinzo Abe

AN ASSERTIVE JAPAN: RESPONSE TO NORTH KOREAN MISSILE TESTS

Korea North Supreme leader Kim Jong-un. (File Photo: IANS)[/caption] Significantly enough, North Korea’s geographic location is highly strategic for China as North Korea shares a land border (the 38th parallel) with South Korea and across the Sea of Japan, is the Japanese mainland. Notable here is that South Korea and Japan have been allies of the US since the Cold War era. Both South Korea and Japan have been traditional competitors for China in the region. The United States maintains military bases in both these countries with an intention to maintain strategic control in the West Pacific region. In the contemporary context, such strategic control is effectively directed at China, which in the opinion of many scholars is now a ‘world power’ and is increasingly threatening the status of United States as the only global player in the international system. Furthermore, the situation becomes more complicated for the US, with the fact that North Korea also shares border with Russia in the north and Russia has been increasingly collaborating with China in matters of international importance. Russia has unilaterally opposed the Japanese purchase of the Aegis anti-ballisitic missile defence system as well as the upgradation of the warship to an aircraft carrier. The nuclear programme and the ICBMs, which earlier were declared to be for peaceful purposes by the North Koreans are now overtly directed at the United States as North Korean statements attest. The North Korean ballistic missiles now evidently have a range of more than 10,000 Kilometres and are capable of carrying nuclear warheads right to the United States mainland. The US Alaskan territory has always been within the range of the North Korean missiles. Apart from the US, Seoul and Tokyo are the two other places feeling directly threatened. An important fact about the North East Asian region, but which is often overlooked is the presence of five of the most important economies of the world. United States through Alaska, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea have close  geographical presence in the region. Further, the region, in Saul B. Cohen’s Geopolitical System (2010) is not part of any of the geostrategic realms, namely, the Atlantic and Pacific Trade Dependent Maritime Realm anchored by the United States and the Eurasian Heartlandic Realm anchored by Russia. Therefore, it creates a sort of shatterbelt, which is not deeply interlinked to any of the world’s major geopolitical regional pacts from which it can derive its stability from. The rivalries in the region are deeply entrenched, eg. Japan Vs. China, Japan Vs. South Korea and South Korea Vs. North Korea, with strong geopolitical overtones. The basis of these rivalries in some cases is hard geopolitics, Senkaku/Diayou islands dispute between Japan and China, painful and difficult historical experience for the South Koreans with Japan since World War II and the division itself of North and South Korea. In addition, the emergence of China as a great power complicates the regional scenario. China projects its might very effectively in the region owing to its proximity and recently acquired economic influence. Therefore, the geopolitical scenario in Northeast Asia and the North Korean belligerence not only concerns the US and China but has severe implications for the larger region and the world. Japan, one of the defeated parties of the World War II, which had adopted a very pacific attitude towards the use of force so far, is rearming itself heavily due to the North Korean threat. The Japanese efforts to rearm are supported by the US. However, the domestic constituency for the military revival in Japan is also growing as the popularity of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe since October 2017 indicates. Abe has been known for his hardline policies towards North Korea and strengthening alliance with the US. No one can now doubt that Japan is gradually moving toward becoming a full- fledged military nation owing to threats in the region, not only from North Korea but also from an aggressive Peoples Republic of China (PRC). In the face of these threats Japan has chosen to rearm and it should not surprise strategic analysts if the Japanese in the near future decide to go nuclear. With the available nuclear energy technology and the political and economic clout in the international system, Japan may not find it difficult to convince the world. So, in the near future the world may see a more assertive Japan. // ]]>

Shinzo Abe

Shinzo Abe makes history, set to be PM again

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday said the ruling Liberal Democratic Party-Komeito blocs overwhelming victory in the general election represented a “historic” level of public confidence in his leadership and that he will take the result as a powerful endorsement of his policies, including revising the pacifist Constitution. With Sunday’s victory, Abe silenced doubts about his leadership ahead of imminent meetings with world leaders, including US President Donald Trump next month, the Japan Times reported. Abe also announced his intention to seek re-election as Prime Minister at the Diet, possibly as soon as November 1, when a special Diet session is reportedly set to be convened, and then “swiftly launch a new Cabinet.” “I am very grateful that the Japanese public has powerfully encouraged us to move forward with our politics based on the solid foundation of our leadership,” Abe told a packed news conference at the headquarters of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party. According to media tallies, Abe’s LDP had secured 281 seats by itself, well beyond the “overwhelming majority” of 261 seats that lets the LDP appoint all chairs as well as a majority of the members in the Lower House standing committees. The LDP’s impressive showing marked the third consecutive time it has won a majority in the Lower House. Abe said the accomplishment under the same Prime Minister was a first-ever feat in the party’s 62-year-old history. Meanwhile, in the shadow of the LDP’s victory, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike’s upstart Kibo no To (Party of Hope) suffered “utter defeat”, she conceded. The party, which fielded over 200 candidates, struggled through the final days of the election and had garnered just 50 seats as of Monday evening, media tallies showed. The dismal showing prompted Seiji Maehara, head of the virtually defunct opposition Democratic Party, to announce on Monday that he will step down as president to take responsibility. Prior to his news conference, Abe met with Natsuo Yamaguchi, head of the LDP’s junior coalition partner Komeito, to reaffirm their solid partnership. Abe called the snap election last month in part to seek a public mandate for his hard-line approach toward nuclear-armed North Korea — a strategy that dovetails with the pressure-over-dialogue tactic pursued by Trump. Abe is slated to discuss North Korea with Trump when he visits Tokyo starting November 5, and with other world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, during a series of meetings, including the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit scheduled for next month in Vietnam. Sunday’s election afforded the ruling coalition a two-thirds majority in the Lower House that, coupled with the same type of majority in the Upper House, could let Abe call a national referendum on the divisive issue. His goal is to rewrite the war-renouncing Constitution by 2020. On Monday, he did not confirm whether he would stick to that timeline. Nor did he clarify if he will go ahead with the referendum during next year’s ordinary Diet session based on a draft constitution the LDP could submit to the legislative body as soon as this fall, The Japan Times said. (IANS)

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