PacNet #37 – Comparative Connections Summary: May 2023

Spread the love

Comparative Connections Summary:
January-April 2023

 

REGIONAL OVERVIEW

“Like-Minded Minilateralism” Coming of Age

BY RALPH COSSA, PACIFIC FORUM & BRAD GLOSSERMAN, TAMA UNIVERSITY CRS/PACIFIC FORUM

As broad-based multilateral organizations seem to be increasingly unable (or unwilling) to tackle the major security challenges of the day—Russia-Ukraine, China-Taiwan, North Korea, and Myanmar, to list but a few—more focused “minilateral” efforts involving “like-minded” allies and partners are coming to the fore. Foremost among the dysfunctional are the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and broader UN mechanisms, thanks to Russian and Chinese intransigence. Sadly, ASEAN-led mechanisms like the East Asia Summit and ASEAN Regional Forum, not to mention ASEAN itself, also fall into this category, as does the G20, whose foreign ministers failed to reach any meaningful conclusions at their early March 2023 meeting, their first with India at the helm. Enter the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (or “Quad,” involving Australia, India, Japan, and the United States), AUKUS (Australia-United Kingdom-US technical cooperation agreement), various minilateral cooperative efforts (including US-Japan-Philippines and US-Japan-Korea), and a resurgent like-minded G7, now that its (failed) experiment of drawing Russia and China into its process has come to an inglorious end. But not all new efforts are succeeding. President Biden hosted his second “Summit of Democracies” which drew little fanfare or attention.

 

US-JAPAN RELATIONS

The US and Japan Build Multilateral Momentum 

BY SHEILA A. SMITH, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS & CHARLES MCCLEAN, YALE MACMILLAN CENTER

2023 brings a renewed focus on the US-Japan partnership as a fulcrum of global and regional diplomacy. With an eye to the G7 Summit in Hiroshima in mid-May, Prime Minister Kishida Fumio began the year with visits to G7 counterparts in Europe and North America. Later in the spring, he toured Africa in an effort to gain understanding from countries of the Global South. The Joe Biden administration looks ahead to a lively economic agenda, as it hosts the APEC Summit in November on the heels of the G20 Summit in New Delhi in September. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan laid out in detail the economic ambitions of the Biden national strategy on April 27, giving further clarity to how the administration’s foreign policy will meet the needs of the American middle class. Regional collaboration continues to expand. Both leaders will gather in Australia on May 24 as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese hosts the third in-person meeting of the leaders of the Quad. Also noteworthy in this first quarter of 2023 is the progress in ties between Japan and South Korea.

US-CHINA RELATIONS

US-China Effort Set “Guardrails” Fizzles with Balloon Incident

BY SOURABH GUPTA, INSTITUTE FOR CHINA-AMERICA STUDIES

The proposed “guardrail” that Joe Biden and Xi Jinping sought to erect last fall in Bali failed to emerge in the bitter aftermath of a wayward Chinese surveillance balloon that overflew the United States and violated its sovereignty. Though Antony Blinken and Wang Yi met on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference afterward, aspersions cast by each side against the other, including a series of disparaging Chinese government reports, fed the chill in ties. Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy during the return leg of her US transit added to bilateral and cross-strait tensions and were met with Chinese sanctions. Issues pertaining to Taiwan, be it arms sales or a speculated Chinese invasion date of the island, remained contentious. The administration’s attempt to restart constructive economic reengagement with China, including via an important speech by US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, appears to have fallen on deaf ears in Beijing.

 

US-KOREA RELATIONS

Nuclear New Year

BY MASON RICHEY, HANKUK UNIVERSITY

South Korean president Yoon Suk-yeol has tried to make a priority of transforming the traditional US-South Korea military alliance into a “global, comprehensive strategic alliance” with increasing ambitions beyond hard security issues on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia in general. Yoon and his foreign policy team get an “A” for vision and effort—joining the NATO Asia-Pacific Four (AP4) and releasing an Indo-Pacific Strategy in 2022 are evidence. But, like Michael Corleone trying to go legit in The Godfather III, every time they make progress getting out, they get pulled back into the Peninsula. To wit, during the first trimester of 2023 Korean Peninsula security issues again commanded disproportionate attention from Seoul and Washington. The proximate cause for this dynamic is North Korea’s mafioso-in-chief, Kim Jong Un, who started 2023 with a January 1 missile launch and kept at it throughout the winter. This, of course, followed record-breaking 2022 North Korean missile tests and demonstrations, which totaled approximately 70 launches of around 100 projectiles. Given the near-zero prospects for North Korean denuclearization and the growing arsenal at Pyongyang’s disposal, it is understandable that any South Korean president would be distracted from interests further afield.

 

US-INDIA RELATIONS

An Even Larger Role in Everything

BY AKHIL RAMESH, PACIFIC FORUM

On May 24, 2022, President Joe Biden met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the Quad summit in Tokyo. According to the White House readout of the meeting, “The leaders reviewed the progress made in the US-India Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership. They committed to deepen the Major Defense Partnership, encourage economic engagement that benefits both countries, and expand partnership on global health, pandemic preparedness, and critical and emerging technologies.” While such statements are often aspirational and lag in implementation, the first four months of 2023 show the renaissance in US-India ties to be real.

 

US-SOUTHEAST ASIA RELATIONS

Washington Zeroes in on Manila

BY CATHARIN DALPINO, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY

With an apparent renaissance in the US-Philippine alliance, spurred by rising tensions in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, the Biden administration ramped up diplomatic activity with Manila as the two countries moved toward an official visit from President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., in May. At the same time, the 42nd iteration of Cobra Gold, which returned to full strength for the first time since the 2014 coup in Bangkok, suggested momentum in the US-Thailand alliance, albeit with a lower profile. While the international environment continued to be roiled by US-China rivalry, the Russian war in Ukraine, and high food and commodity prices, Southeast Asia’s own internal turmoil was evident. The junta in Myanmar extended the state of emergency and stepped up aerial bombing of areas held by the opposition and armed ethnic groups. As Indonesia takes up the ASEAN chair, prospects for implementing the Five-Point Consensus Plan are dim, if not dead. Vietnam and Thailand began leadership transitions—Hanoi with an anti-corruption purge and Bangkok with the launch of general elections—while Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen continued to eviscerate the opposition ahead of his near-certain re-election in July.

 

CHINA-SOUTHEAST ASIA RELATIONS

China Strengthens Regional Leadership Countering US Challenges

BY ROBERT SUTTER, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY & CHIN-HAO HUANG, YALE-NUS COLLEGE
Southeast Asia featured prominently in Beijing’s increasingly strong international efforts to portray Chi-na as a source of strategic stability and economic growth with comprehensive global governance plans supportive of interests of developing countries and opposing the United States. These efforts intensified after the landmark 20th Party Congress in October and the 14th National People’s Congress in March. They were reinforced as Xi Jinping emerged from COVID restrictions and preoccupation with domestic matters to engage actively in summitry with leaders of Vietnam, Laos, the Philippines, Cambodia, Malay-sia, and Singapore. China’s economic importance for regional countries grew as did its dominance over the contested South China Sea. Its show of force against Taiwan in April had little discernible impact on China-Southeast Asia relations, while notable US advances in military cooperation with the Philippines warranted Chinese warnings that escalated during the reporting period.

 

CHINA-TAIWAN RELATIONS

Confrontation Muted, Tensions Growing

BY DAVID KEEGAN, JOHNS HOPKINS SCHOOL OF ADVANCED INTERNATIONAL STUDIES & KYLE CHURCHMAN, JOHNS HOPKINS SCHOOL OF ADVANCED INTERNATIONAL STUDIES

As 2023 began, cross-Strait confrontation was muted. Travel began returning to pre-COVID levels across the Strait and between the mainland and Taiwan’s offshore islands. At China’s annual National People’s Congress, outgoing Premier Li Keqiang and reanointed President Xi Jinping eschewed inflammatory rhetoric about reunification with Taiwan. Taiwan and the US kept Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s transit of the US low-key. Tsai met House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California, deflecting the speaker’s ex-pressed interest in visiting Taiwan and avoiding the destabilizing Chinese military exercises around Tai-wan that followed Speaker Pelosi’s visit last August. Despite this calm, seeds of confrontation proliferated. China cut a communications cable to Taiwan’s off-shore islands and announced a coast guard drill to inspect commercial shipping in the Taiwan Strait, both interpreted as practice for gray-zone coercion. China persuaded Honduras to sever its longstanding diplomatic ties with Taiwan. Taiwan increased its military budget and expanded training with US forces. Former Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou visited China and met Chinese officials, endorsing the 1992 Consensus and signaling that the upcoming election campaign for Taiwan’s president will again offer two very different visions of Taiwan’s future relationship with mainland China.

 

NORTH KOREA-SOUTH KOREA RELATIONS

North Cranks up Nukes— and Slams Down the Phone

BY AIDAN FOSTER-CARTER, LEEDS UNIVERSITY, UK

The first four months of 2023 brought no progress or respite in inter-Korean relations. Pyongyang sent no further drones into Southern airspace as it had in December, but continued to rattle Seoul with tests of advance weaponry and ever more lurid nuclear rhetoric. South Korea hardened its language and stance, with a restored emphasis on human rights in the North—now officially defined as an enemy once more. ROK President Yoon Suk Yeol also found enemies within: leftists who made contact with the DPRK in third countries were no longer ignored but prosecuted. More ominously, so were four top officials who served the previous president, Moon Jae-in, over how they handled two difficult inter-Korean incidents in 2019-20. Elsewhere, Seoul complained in vain about Pyongyang’s abuse of its assets in two defunct joint ventures: stealing some, destroying others. Soon after, the North stopped answering the phone. It is hard to see how North-South relations will improve, but all too easy to imagine them getting even worse.

 

CHINA-KOREA RELATIONS

Deepening Suspicions and Limited Diplomacy

BY SCOTT SNYDER, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS & SEE-WON BYUN, SAN FRANCISCO STATE UNIVERSITYChina and South Korea began 2023 with the temporary imposition of tit-for-tat restrictions by both governments on travel to the other country after China lifted its zero-COVID policy. Although the restrictions proved temporary, they pointed to the reality of a sustained downward spiral in China-South Korea relations accompanied by increasingly strident public objections in Chinese media to the Yoon Suk Yeol administration’s steps to redouble South Korean alignment with the United States regarding Indo-Pacific strategy, supply chain resiliency, and shared values. South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Park Jin’s congratulatory call to newly appointed Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Qin Gang on Jan. 9 was one of the few positive senior-level inter-action between the two countries in early 2023; by the end of April, the main diplomatic interactions between China and South Korea had devolved into a dueling exchange of private demarches and public assertions that the other side had committed a “diplomatic gaffe.”

 

JAPAN-CHINA RELATIONS

Talking—But Talking Past Each Other

BY JUNE TEUFEL DREYER, UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI

The 17th China-Japan Security Dialogue resumed in late February after a four-year pause but produced no resolution to outstanding problems. In early April, Chinese and Japanese foreign ministers also met for the first time since 2019, with the four-hour meeting similarly unproductive. The Chinese side expressed annoyance with Tokyo for its cooperation with the United States, its support of Taiwan, the release of Fukushima nuclear-contaminated wastewater into the ocean, and Tokyo’s recent restrictions on semiconductor equipment exports. The Japanese foreign minister sought, but did not obtain, information on a Japanese national who had been arrested on spying charges, complained about Chinese intrusions into the territorial waters around the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, and stressed the importance of stability in the Taiwan Strait. There was no mention of the long-postponed state visit of Xi Jinping to Tokyo as a matter of reciprocity for former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s visit to Beijing.

 

JAPAN-KOREA RELATIONS

The Return of Shuttle Diplomacy

BY JI-YOUNG LEE, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY & ANDY LIM, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES

In March 2023, Japan and South Korea had a long-awaited breakthrough in their bilateral relations, which many viewed as being at the lowest point since the 1965 normalization. On March 16, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio held a summit in Tokyo and agreed to resume “shuttle diplomacy,” a crucial mechanism of bilateral cooperation that had been halted for about a decade. Behind the positive developments was President Yoon’s political decision on the issue of compensating wartime forced laborers. The two leaders took steps to bring ties back to the level that existed prior to actions in 2018 and 2019, which precipitated the downward spiral in their relationship. Japan decided to lift the export controls it placed on its neighbor following the South Korean Supreme Court ruling on forced labor in 2018. South Korea withdrew its complaint with the World Trade Organization on Japan’s export controls. Less than a week after the summit, Seoul officially fully restored the information sharing agreement (GSOMIA) that it had with Tokyo. They also resumed high-level bilateral foreign and security dialogues to discuss ways to navigate the changing international environment together as partners.

 

CHINA-RUSSIA RELATIONS

War and Peace for Moscow and Beijing

BY YU BIN, WITTENBERG UNIVERSITY

Perhaps more than any other time in their respective histories, the trajectories of China and Russia were separated by choices in national strategy. A year in-to Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, the war bogged down into a stalemate. Meanwhile, China embarked upon a major peace offensive aimed at Europe and beyond. It was precisely during these abnormal times that the two strategic part-ners deepened and broadened relations as top Chinese leaders traveled to Moscow in the first few months of the year (China’s top diplomat Wang Yi, President Xi Jinping, and newly appointed Defense Minister Li Shangfu). Meanwhile, Beijing’s peace initiative became both promising and perilous as it reached out to warring sides and elsewhere (Europe and the Middle East). It remains to be seen how this new round of “Western civil war” (Samuel Hunting-ton’s depiction of the 1648-1991 period in his pro-vocative “The Clash of Civilizations?” treatise) could be lessened by a non-Western power, particularly after drone attacks on the Kremlin in early May.

 

JAPAN-SOUTHEAST ASIA RELATIONS

Great Power Politics: The Indo-Pacific, Southeast Asia, and the Global South

BY KEI KOGANANYANG TECHNOLOGICAL UNIVERSITY

2023 marks the 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation, and there are expectations that their relationship will be upgraded to a “comprehensive strategic partnership.” Given the good diplomatic, security, and economic relations between Japan and Southeast Asian states, ties are likely to be strengthened. However, Japan is now taking a more competitive strategy toward China, as indicated in the three security documents issued in December 2022, while Southeast Asian states generally continued the same strategic posture by which they have good relations with all great powers in the Indo-Pacific region. Also, while Japan issued the “New Plan for the Free and Open Indo-Pacific” that emphasizes the “Global South,” it remained silent about ASEAN centrality and unity in the Indo-Pacific, and it was unclear what roles Japan expects ASEAN to play. Although both Japan and Southeast Asian states need to adjust their roles in the Indo-Pacific region, it remains to be seen whether the 50th anniversary becomes an opportunity for clarification.

PacNet commentaries and responses represent the views of the respective authors.

PacNet #32 – Europe’s China confusion does the world a disservice

Spread the love

An earlier version of this article appeared in The Japan Times.

Talk about mixed messages! Days after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen made one of the toughest speeches ever on China by an EU official, French President Emmanuel Macron visited that country with a delegation of business leaders.

Macron’s visit saw him meeting with supreme leader Xi Jinping, emphasizing points of convergence with Chinese proposals to end the Ukraine war and touting Europe’s “strategic autonomy”—diplomatic speak for creating distance from the United States on important policy matters.

It’s music to Chinese ears. Beijing is eager to exploit those differences to dilute any consensus on China policy within Europe and widen gaps between it and Washington to prevent the emergence of a unified position toward China.

European incoherence is worrying and not for just obvious reasons. Internal differences deprive the world of a credible alternative to the hard line toward China that dominates thinking in the United States. This is especially troubling for Japan, whose logic in many ways mirrors that of Europe.

In a speech the week before Macron’s visit, von der Leyen said that Xi “essentially wants China to become the world’s most powerful nation,” and that had been accompanied by a “deliberate hardening” of China’s strategic stance, with the country becoming “more repressive at home and more assertive abroad.” She pulled no punches, noting that “Just as China has been ramping up its military posture, it has also ramped up its policies of disinformation and economic and trade coercion. This is a deliberate policy targeting other countries to ensure they comply and conform.”

The EU identified China as a “systemic rival” in its 2019 strategic outlook. That label takes on special significance given von der Leyen’s pledge “to ensure that our companies’ capital, expertise and knowledge are not used to enhance the military and intelligence capabilities of those who are also systemic rivals.”

For her, however, and in distinction from US policy, the preferred policy is to de-risk trade with China, not to decouple. “We do not want to cut economic, societal, political or scientific ties. … But our relationship is unbalanced and increasingly affected by distortions created by China’s state capitalist system. So we need to rebalance this relationship on the basis of transparency, predictability and reciprocity.”

That means recognizing Chinese ambitions for what they truly are, rather than what some might want them to be—or as they may be presented—and promoting competitiveness and resilience within EU economies and businesses. That means reducing vulnerabilities created by reliance on single suppliers for critical or essential materials. That means employing defensive measures, like the trade controls mentioned above.

Her tough words contrasted with Macron’s message. He and Xi issued a joint communique in which they agreed to “improve market access” for each other’s businesses and designated 2024 as a “China-France Year of Culture and Tourism,” a move intended to get Chinese tourists to visit France as pandemic travel restrictions are eased. They also closed a deal to open a second production line for Airbus in China, another boost to the company’s ambitions in that market.

Macron emphasized the need to promote Europe’s “strategic autonomy,” or as he explained in an interview during his visit, reducing dependence on the United States and preventing Europe from getting “caught up in crises that are not ours.” Addressing the Taiwan situation, he added that “the worst thing” would be for Europeans to “become followers on this topic and take our cue from the US agenda and a Chinese overreaction.” Those comments generated considerable pushback in Europe; the Biden administration focused instead on cooperation with France.

China welcomed Macron; von der Leyen, a member of Macron’s group, not so much. Politico contrasted the treatment given the two. Macron was met on the airport tarmac by the foreign minister; von der Leyen got the ecology minister at the regular passenger exit. Macron’s schedule was overflowing, von der Leyen’s was bare-bones. Macron had a glittery state banquet with Xi while von der Leyen held a news conference at EU delegation headquarters. As Politico summarized the atmosphere, “While state media trumpeted the Sino-French relationship, Chinese social media demonized von der Leyen as an American puppet.”

If all that was too subtle, Fu Cong, China’s ambassador to the EU, was blunt in remarks to the Financial Times the day of von der Leyen’s speech. “We do hope that the European governments and the European politicians can see where their interests lie and then resist the unwarranted pressure from the US,” adding “it will only be at their own peril.” After all, he noted, “Who in their right mind would abandon such a thriving market as big as China?”

The easy explanation for EU schizophrenia is “good cop, bad cop.” That assumes a level of foresight and coherence in European diplomacy that seems unduly optimistic. Most observers concede that there are, as Mikko Huotari, director of the Mercator Institute for China Studies explained, substantive differences between von der Leyen and the major EU governments on how to handle EU-China relations.

There is also a self-serving element to Macron’s statements: In this and similar formulations, European strategic autonomy would be led by France. In his typically incisive and caustic analysis, Tufts University professor Dan Drezner writes that “Macron is playing his part of the French president and trying to call attention to himself.” According to Drezner, the appropriate “considered response is a polite shrug.”

Still, there is a real cost to Europe’s incoherence but it isn’t the one that typically comes to mind. A European position that is both clear-eyed about China while acknowledging the need for engagement would provide an important counterweight to the narrow-minded consensus that dominates thinking in the United States.

Writing in The National Interest last month, Paul Heer, a former American national intelligence officer for Northeast Asia, worried about the “bipartisan consensus on the nature and scope of the threat from China,” challenging the validity of the premises upon which those judgments are based and warning of groupthink that could lead US policy dangerously astray.

Heer agrees that China is a formidable and ruthless opponent and one that requires a comprehensive, whole-of-government competitive US response. Still, he rejects — citing the Annual Threat Assessment of the US intelligence community — that it is “an ‘existential’ winner-take-all threat to US global power and influence or to the American way of life, requiring a wholly adversarial cold war US response.”

His conclusion matches that of Harry Hannah, another former American intelligence official, who argues in a Stimson Center Red Cell report that a fixation on China risks repeating Cold War mistakes, especially that of ignoring or underplaying other developments that could be equally if not more important to US national security. Hannah is especially keen to empower other actors whose interests and values align with that of the United States, even though they may not be identical. Ignoring them or forcing them to toe the US line, he argues, plays to Beijing’s preference for a great power “Group of Two” that marginalizes other countries—many of which are US allies or partners.

A united Europe, one with a coherent and consistent policy toward China, could, in this conception of global order, balance China without going to the US extreme. While Europe alone can’t check China, its approach approximates that of Japan and together they offer a more inviting alternative to those skeptical of the all-or-nothing US policy. It is a credible option for those in Washington uncomfortable with the prevailing hard line, too.

Europe can’t replace the United States on issues of Indo-Pacific security. Forging a framework for constructively engaging one of the world’s superpowers is just as vital, however. Brussels can’t do that alone. Only by working with Tokyo and other like-minded countries can Europe succeed.

Japan has been reaching out to Europe for some time now, a process that began two decades ago and accelerated under the Trump administration as Tokyo and Brussels sought allies to gird an international order weakened by Beijing, Moscow and, sadly, Washington. Japan and the EU signed the Strategic Partnership Agreement, the Economic Partnership Agreement and the Partnership on Sustainable Connectivity and Quality Infrastructure to strengthen their cooperation and counter the forces of revisionism.

The United States needs to adopt a more flexible approach to its allies and partners, giving them the space to maneuver as they see fit—as long as they work toward the same goals. But this demands that those allies step up as well. Recent events show that Brussels understands the challenge; meeting it remains beyond its grasp.

Brad Glosserman ([email protected]) is deputy director of and visiting professor at the Center for Rule-Making Strategies at Tama University as well as senior adviser (nonresident) at Pacific Forum. He is the author of Peak Japan: The End of Great Ambitions (Georgetown University Press, 2019). This article is drawn from a forthcoming book on the new national security economy.

PacNet commentaries and responses represent the views of the respective authors. Alternative viewpoints are always welcomed and encouraged.

Photo: President Xi Jinping and President Emmanuel Macron at an official ceremony at the Great Hall of the People (6 April 2023, CNN) by Gonzalo Fuentes via Reuters. 

Issues & Insights Vol. 23, CR1 – South China Sea, East China Sea, and the Emerging US-Japan-Philippines Trilateral

Spread the love

Executive Summary

The U.S.-Japan-Philippines Trilateral Maritime Security Dialogue conducted in December 2022 confirmed that there is very little difference in threat perceptions regarding the East and South China Seas. The three countries view China’s increasingly assertive claims to the territories and maritime zones in the two bodies of water as antithetical to their shared vision of a free, open, and rules-based Indo-Pacific. China’s rapid military expansion, including unprecedented nuclear weapons and missile buildup, reinforces the urgency of the threat. Japanese and Philippine interlocutors worry that as China approaches nuclear parity with the United States, the region’s strategic environment will worsen. American participants emphasized greater and tangible demonstration of alliance commitments and agreed that some risk-taking is required to push back against Chinese coercion. There was a consensus about the challenge of addressing Beijing’s gray zone activities that have so far succeeded in seizing territories and maritime areas in the South China Sea and establishing regular intrusions into Japanese waters in the East China Sea. Participants struggled to find a strategy to blunt China’s salami-slicing tactics while avoiding escalation and armed conflict.

Key Findings & Recommendations

The geographic locations of the Philippines and Japan make them frontline allies in addressing maritime security challenges brought about by an increasingly assertive China. Long term, Chinese coercion is expected to worsen  as  it  commissions  new  vessels,  deploys sophisticated missile systems, and approaches nuclear parity with the United States. The three countries should be willing to take some risks to prevent China’s coercion from succeeding. The alliances need to be reinforced through more explicit demonstration of commitments. Discussion between these countries on the strategic implications of Beijing’s rapid nuclear and missile buildup should commence. The dialogue emphasized these findings, among other takeaways.

Finding: One function of Beijing’s gray zone operations is to test the resolve of other claimants and the United States, hoping they prioritize de-escalation to avoid armed conflict and eventually back down. During a “gray zone” crisis, prioritizing de-escalation when China escalates will likely result in fait accompli, with Beijing gaining more maritime spaces and territories.

  • Recommendation: The United States, Japan, and the Philippines should be willing to take some risks (for example, by conducting operations to get past a blockade instead of abandoning the mission) to prevent China’s coercion from succeeding.

Finding: Chinese gray zone coercion in the South China Sea follows a pattern. Militia vessels first establish a presence in another country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), inside the nine-dash line. Since they pose as fishing vessels, they force other claimants to consider two difficult options: either conduct law enforcement operations against the vessels, risking tension with China or simply monitor and record. CCG vessels and occasionally PLA Navy vessels anchor close by to deter other claimants from taking action.

  • Recommendation: Operationally, the United States and its allies should consider abandoning the concept of gray zone and instead draw a clear line between benign peaceful activities and non-peaceful activities to encompass operations carried out by civilian agents taking orders from military agencies.
  • Recommendation: Instead of identifying China’s actions as being in the gray zone, which leads to confusion about how to respond without risking armed conflict, the United States and its allies should instead match the escalation and turn the tables on China, for instance by reinforcing presence to maintain the status quo, instead of focusing on ways to de-escalate and end the crisis.

Finding: When Washington committed to the Japan- administered Senkaku Islands in 2014 and refused to offer the same to Philippine-administered land features in the South China Sea, the credibility of the U.S.-Philippine alliance significantly decreased, which resulted in more Chinese assertiveness and stronger voices in the Philippines calling for an accommodation of Chinese security preferences.

  • Recommendation: The United States needs to become more willing to commit explicitly to existing defense treaties during crises to increase deterrence while also compelling China to reverse course.

Finding: There are legal constraints to Japan’s response to China’s gray zone challenges. For instance, the JCG is legally mandated to conduct law enforcement operations against fishing vessels, and even against militia vessels, as they are not sovereign immune vessels. The JMSDF is in charge of maritime security operations but is only allowed to act when the JCG cannot manage a specific threat and when the defense minister has given an order. The JCG cannot conduct law enforcement operations against CCG vessels, which are sovereign immune vessels. However, the JMSDF also cannot conduct maritime security operations against CCG vessels because they are not considered warships by the Japanese government. Meanwhile, the U.S. military has made clear since April 2019 that it would make no distinction between Chinese Coast Guard and militia boats and PLA Navy ships.

  • Recommendation: The United States and Japan should discuss the roles of JCG, JMSDF, and U.S. Forces Japan during crises to cope with political constraints and mitigate the operational implications of legal gaps.

Finding: Beijing’s unprecedented nuclear weapons build-up is integral to China’s long-term maritime security goals in Southeast Asia. The trajectory of China’s nuclear weapons build-up predicting a stockpile of about 1,500 warheads by 2035 and reaching nuclear parity with (if not nuclear superiority over) the United States, could shape the cost-benefit calculations of U.S. allies and partners.

  • Recommendation: The United States should make investments and not allow China to achieve nuclear superiority while also commencing discussions with Japan on nuclear deterrence and nuclear sharing and with the Philippines on its appetite for a nuclear umbrella in exchange for greater U.S. access to Philippines bases.

Finding: The biggest challenge for Japan and the U.S.- Japan alliance vis-à-vis gray zone coercion in the East China Sea is that CCG vessels are sovereign immune vessels and, therefore, cannot be subjected to ordinary law-enforcement operations. China would see JMSDF conducting maritime security operations against warships as an act of war and could trigger escalation toward armed conflict.

  • Recommendation: Japan should reconsider CCG vessels’ sovereign immunity since intrusion into the Japanese territorial sea to assert territorial jurisdiction is a violation of Japan’s sovereignty. This could mean taking considerable risks by maneuvering to physically challenge the presence of Chinese government vessels inside the Japanese territorial sea or block any resupply mission. Any risk-taking should be fully coordinated with the United States to avoid a mismatch in expectations.

Finding: U.S. and Japanese participants diverged on how they perceived the usual refrain of not taking sides on sovereignty issues that accompany U.S. statements related to territorial disputes in the region. Some Japanese participants view the wording as unnecessary and worry it could give the impression that U.S. commitment is weak.

  • Recommendation: The United States should word statements to highlight the source of tension and Washington’s strong alliance commitments.

Finding: Winning the information war is critical to holding China to account for its assertive behavior.

  • Recommendation: Philippine and Japanese militaries and coast guards should invest in surveillance hardware and facilitate the release of data (including photographs, satellite data, and videos) to the public. Data should be released after an incident in a matter of hours, not days or weeks. Doing so would put Chinese propagandists on the defensive and not dominate the information domain. The United States should assist in providing ISR data and ensuring full maritime domain awareness.

Finding: The United States now has a clear position on maritime claims in the region. In July 2020, Washington explicitly stated that it does not recognize China’s nine- dash line claim, effectively reversing its position on maritime claims. The new U.S. policy on maritime entitlements mirrors the decision of the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal that ruled in favor of the Philippines. This could have implications for the ongoing negotiation for a joint U.S.-Philippine patrol in the South China Sea.

  • Recommendation: The U.S. Coast Guard and Navy should join their Philippine counterparts in patrolling areas identified in the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal as part of Philippine entitlements.

Finding: Funding remains an issue for the modernization of Philippine forces. While the Philippine Navy continues to procure more modern platforms, budget constraints slow the process. Japan has made the PCG the largest in Southeast Asia in terms of the number of surface assets, but PCG vessels lack modern weapon systems necessary for law enforcement. Japan cannot provide weapon systems because of institutional constraints.

  • Recommendation: The United States and Japan should consider a burden sharing-arrangement to help the Philippines safeguard its maritime entitlements in the South China Sea. Japan should continue to provide the platforms, while the United States provides the weapon systems. Also, the United States can focus its foreign military financing on modernizing the Philippine Navy while Japan can focus its resources on helping the civilian maritime agencies in the Philippines, such as the PCG and the Bureau of Marine and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), increasing their presence in the South China Sea, and developing overall capabilities.

About this report

Pacific Forum, with support from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) organized the inaugural Track 2 U.S.-Japan- Philippines Trilateral Maritime Security Dialogue on December 1- 2, 2022. Strategic thinkers from the United States, Japan and the Philippines, including scholars, policy experts, and retired military and government officials, participated in the dialogue. This report contains the general summary of the discussions.

The recommendations contained in this report, unless otherwise specifically noted, were generated by the discussions as interpreted by the Principal Investigators. This is not a consensus document. All participants attended in their private capacity.

The statements made and views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of the Pacific Forum, the project sponsors, or the dialogue participants’ respective organizations and affiliations. For questions, please email [email protected]

Click here to download the full report.

PacNet #30 – Now is the time for a US-Japan-Taiwan security trilateral

Spread the love

Japan is determined to uphold the international order in the Indo-Pacific but cannot achieve that goal alone. Therefore Tokyo enhances its partnership with allies through minilateral arrangements like the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue and Trilateral Strategic Dialogue (with the United States and Australia). Some even advocate Japan’s cooperation with another minilateral, the Australia-US-UK (AUKUS) pact, in high-tech areas like hypersonics or cybersecurity. The rise of such minilateral frameworks among like-minded countries can make the region more stable and resilient.

Yet another potential framework also merits attention: trilateral cooperation between the United States, Japan, and Taiwan.

Pacific Forum recently published “The World After Taiwan’s Fall,” attracting attention throughout the region. In the volume, David Santoro, Ralph Cossa, and other scholars emphasize the significance of Taiwan in maintaining the current rules-based order. The United States is undoubtedly the biggest supporter of Taiwan—especially in military terms. The Taiwan Relations Act has since 1979 allowed for the transfer of defense articles, something the United States has honored across both Republican and Democratic administrations.

However, during a contingency on Taiwan, Washington would struggle to stave off an attack without Japanese help, chiefly because it has no military bases and deployments on the island. For the US military to rescue Taiwan, it needs proximate locations for operations. Guam, the US territory with Andersen Air Force Base and Apra Harbor, could be a starting point for the US military. A more effective missile defense plan is also needed to protect Guam and continuously project power. The Philippines, under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., has also offered the US military four additional bases which could be used in a contingency.

The closest US bases to Taiwan, however, are in Okinawa, part of the Japanese archipelago and the First Island Chain. Kadena Air Base is one of the US bases that would play a crucial role in a Taiwan contingency. It is 400 miles from Taipei and the only significant US base to reach the Taiwan Strait without refueling. Article 6 of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan grants the US military use of facilities and areas not only for defending Japan but also “maintenance of international peace and security in the Far East.” However, US bases are located on Japanese sovereign territory and Japan’s consent is not automatic. Prior consultation, before US military combat operations commence, is therefore critical in responding to a contingency in Taiwan.

Japan has its own reasons for concern over a Taiwan contingency. If Taiwan falls, Okinawa would then be vulnerable to PRC takeover, as the Pacific Forum report warns. Yonaguni, the westernmost island of Okinawa, is only about 70 miles from Taiwan. In 2016 the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) afresh established a camp on the island. The following year, then-Commander of USPACOM Harry Harris and then-Chief of Staff, Joint Staff Kawano Katsutoshi jointly visited the brand-new camp.

In December 2021, the late former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo insisted that a Taiwan contingency is the equivalent of a contingency for Japan. This should come as no surprise: in addition to strategic considerations, bilateral ties between Japan and Taiwan are underpinned by deep friendship. Japan is by far the most liked country among the Taiwanese public. Thousands of ordinary people in Taiwan expressed deep condolences for the assassination of Abe Shinzo, due to his deep commitment to Taiwan. When the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in 2011, the Taiwanese people enthusiastically expressed solidarity with their Japanese friends. Taiwan, an island of just 23 million people, contributed the second-highest amount of donations following this disaster, behind only the United States.

Japan has tried to enshrine the Taiwan issue as the priority of the US-Japan alliance. In February 2005, the US secretaries of state and defense and the Japanese foreign and defense ministers held the ministerial 2+2 meeting. Already at the time, common strategic objectives of the joint statement included the Taiwan Strait. The joint statement of the 2+2 meeting in June 2011, “Toward a Deeper and Broader US-Japan Alliance: Building on 50 Years of Partnership,” encouraged “the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues through dialogue.” During then-Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide’s visit to Washington DC in April 2021, the joint statement also underscored the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait at the summit level for the first time since the end of a formal diplomatic ties with Taipei. Following the leaders’ meeting, the G7 shared their concerns over the Strait. At an incoming summit in Hiroshima in May, Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio is expected to coordinate the G7 nations to express continued concern.

Notwithstanding, there is no platform to coordinate the efforts of the three sides. As Beijing takes more assertive actions, these three governments should act now. In my view, the three parties should discuss trilateral security cooperation. Thinking about the triangle security-wise, the weakest side is the tie between Japan and Taiwan. The first challenge for trilateral cooperation is strengthening the security linkage between Tokyo and Taipei.

This new minilateral should start with modest steps. The framework should be functional during a contingent scenario, and establishing a communication channel will be critical, especially at the beginning, to plug the lack of contact. Another gap to fill is cooperation in the maritime domain. Unlike in Ukraine, this would be a significant battle theater, but Taiwan’s navy and coast guard are far less—or not at all—integrated with their US and Japanese counterparts.

A big picture is definitely needed. But a small step is suitable for creating momentum, especially to avoid antagonizing Beijing too much and too soon. There could be several measures to take for practical use. In 2022, it was reported that Japan was considering sending active-duty personnel from the JSDF instead of retired personnel. Someone with an active connection with the JSDF will be an essential channel between the two militaries. As China steps up its efforts in the East and South China Seas, cooperation between the two island countries in the maritime domain is also critical. The memorandum of understanding regarding the collaboration between the US Coast Guard and its Taiwanese counterpart could be a good example to follow. Based on the tangible results of security cooperation between Japan and Taiwan, a trilateral partnership could be established. In fact, trilateral collaboration has already been built up in Taipei. President Tsai Ing-wen has repeatedly touched on “GCTF”—the Global Cooperation and Training Framework—to advance cooperation in practical areas, including training, public health, and digital economy. Honolulu could be another acceptable location to smooth communication among the three parties. The tropical city is host to US Indo-Pacific Command, and active personnel from the JSDF and other militaries are dispatched there.

As discussed above, Japan should pursue another minilateral framework in the Indo-Pacific to stabilize the region; it is high time to forge trilateral security cooperation among the United States, Japan, and Taiwan. And some minor steps would be fitting for the very beginning.

Masatoshi Murakami ([email protected]) ) is an associate professor at Kogakkan University in Japan and a visiting fellow with the Air Command and Staff College of Japan and Nakasone Pease Institute. He previously worked with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a career diplomat and has conducted research as a visiting fellow at Pacific Forum this spring.

PacNet commentaries and responses represent the views of the respective authors. Alternative viewpoints are always welcomed and encouraged.

PacNet #29 – Toward a resilient supply chain to counter Chinese economic coercion

Spread the love

On Aug. 3, 2022, following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, Chinese customs suspended natural sand exports while blocking imports of citrus fruits, chilled white scallops, and frozen mackerel. Export bans are usually symbolic in Taiwan, as farming and fishery exports make up just a fraction of Taiwan’s economy. However, some of the suspended products seem to target specific locales—fishermen, for example, traditionally represent an influential voting bloc in the coastal areas of Taiwan. Beijing may have hoped to turn them toward the relatively China-friendly Kuomintang, and against President Tsai Ing-wen’s Democratic Progressive Party in the local election three months later.

Although China justified the bans by claiming Taiwanese exports violated food safety standards, the timing of this episode suggests Beijing had engaged in economic coercion to change another government’s behavior—and not for the first time.

With China’s rapid economic growth since the late 1970s and early 1980s—and especially after Beijing joined the World Trade Organization in 2001—China’s ability to reward and penalize other countries economically has also grown. As China has increased its interdependence with other countries, it has frequently deployed economic coercion to increase its leverage on issues such as territorial and maritime disputes, in retaliation for criticism over its human rights violations, or to protect its security interests.

Countries in Asia have responded differently toward Beijing’s economic coercion, critically affecting their relations with the regional economic behemoth. Perhaps contrary to the PRC’s expectations, such reactions have contributed to these countries’ growing independence from Chinese coercion, and present an opportunity for the United States to build its regional influence.

Japan

In September 2010, a Chinese trawler collided with two Japanese Coast Guard patrol ships near the Senkaku Islands, an uninhabited—yet disputed—archipelago in the East China Sea. After the Japanese government arrested the trawler captain and sought to put him on trial, China protested. Its expressions of disapproval included halting shipment of rare earth elements (REEs) key to producing hi-tech products like hybrid cars, wind turbines, and guided missiles. The 2010 fishing boat incident triggered Japan’s concerns about dependence on China for processed rare earth materials, as Japan was the largest importer of China’s REEs, and had no alternative supply sources at the time.

The crisis forced Japanese public and private economic actors to pursue multiple REE diversification projects. Notable efforts included increased REE recycling; seeking alternative sources of supply from the United States and Australia; intensifying undersea exploration; and increased use of other substitutes. Consequently, from 2008 to 2018, the share of Japanese rare earth imports from China fell from 91.3% to 58%. China’s ban on rare earth elements showed the downside of “weaponization of interdependence,” by disturbing the global value chain and eventually causing China to lose much of the leverage it had as a key trading partner with Japan.

Australia

The relationship between China and Australia has deteriorated in recent years amid a range of events, starting with Australia banning Huawei from its 5G networks in 2018. The relationship soured further in 2020 as Australia called for an inquiry into China’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak. In response, China imposed an 80.5% tariff on Australian barley and barred imports from Australia such as beef and coal, among other measures. Although Australia has found alternative markets for products such as beef, coal, and copper ore, other products such as lobster and timber continue to suffer compared to their 2019 trade levels.

The case of Australia shows another critical consequence of exercising economic coercion: Rational countries will make the choice not to trade with countries they perceive as aggressors based on the negative perceptions left over from economic coercion, even if this means paying a price economically. This once-close relationship, which took decades to build between the Australian sellers and Chinese buyers, was effectively destroyed by China’s penalties.

South Korea

In July 2016, the US Department of Defense and South Korean Ministry of National Defense announced in a joint statement the alliance’s decision to deploy a US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) antimissile battery in South Korea to defend against the increasing North Korean missile threat. THAAD is a highly effective, combat-proven defense against short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missile threats. Beijing opposed THAAD in Korea based on the fear that the batteries weakened China’s nuclear deterrent and signaled US intent to contain China.

In response, Chinese tourism to South Korea dropped by about 40% and Korea’s consumer goods and cultural products were boycotted inside its giant neighbor. Estimates of the total cost to South Korea range between $7.5 billion and $15.6 billion. To normalize economic relations and remove informal economic sanctions, the South Korean government in 2017 announced its commitment to “three nos”—no additional deployment of THAAD batteries, no South Korean integration into a US-led regional missile defense system, and no trilateral alliance with the United States and Japan. However, ordinary South Koreans’ views of China deteriorated. According to research by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, in the aftermath of the dispute South Koreans viewed China even less favorably than they view Japan, which colonized the Korean Peninsula from 1910-45 and had consistently been Koreans’ least favored country (with the occasional exception of North Korea).

Lessons of Chinese coercion

Chinese economic coercion poses a serious threat to international trade. Clearly, China has been imposing and administering export restrictions, which requires countries to conform to export duties, export quotas, and to meet minimum export price requirements, to achieve Chinese political goals. To halt such coercion, CSIS Senior Vice President for Asia Victor Cha has introduced the concept of “collective resilience” to counter Chinese economic coercion. Specifically, collective resilience is a concept where the United States organizes partners to build economic leverage and discourage Beijing from engaging in coercion in the first place. Members of Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, and Chip4 Alliance are often regarded as key partners of the United States. US partners should cooperate with the Biden administration to establish an early warning system, map out critical supply chains, and diversify the resources for important goods to construct a resilient supply chain.

The United States and its allies and partners should build a bloc to deter China’s acts of economic coercion. To build a robust supply chain that reduces China’s role in supplying critical technologies, members of the bloc should first come to an agreement on ways to build fair and resilient economic order. However, the two massive bills passed by the US Congress—the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the CHIPS and Science Act—pose a severe threat to this mission. Not only does the IRA provide subsidies to vehicles assembled only in North America, the latter bill provides $52 billion for semiconductor companies constructing new high-end manufacturing plants in the United States. This could undermine US credibility, as both can easily be seen as unfairly subsidizing its companies and violating the spirit, if not specific laws of, the World Trade Organization. At the same time, based on the regional proximity and the influence China has on the region, allies will feel pressure to enter a costly and prolonged subsidy war between the United States and China. Export controls on transfer of cutting-edge technologies to China and building a resilient supply chain in the Indo-Pacific won’t work unless key allies and partners cooperate.

The Biden administration should therefore work with its partners to form economic security strategies on advanced technologies where innovations are spurred, while the commercial competitiveness of each country is protected. The US’ Asian allies have already learned from their Chinese counterpart that the only way to avoid weaponizing the economy is to boost the competitiveness of one’s industry, while reducing the economic dependence of the country exercising economic coercion.

Su Hyun Lee ([email protected]) is a researcher focusing on US-China relations and economic security in Korea National Diplomatic Academy. Previously, she was a 2021-22 Resident Korea Foundation Fellow at the Pacific Forum. She holds BA in East Asian International Studies and MA in International Cooperation both from Yonsei University.

PacNet commentaries and responses represent the views of the respective authors. Alternative viewpoints are always welcomed and encouraged.

PacNet #24 – How to help Korea-Japan rapprochement endure

Spread the love

It is newsworthy on its own that conservative South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol flew to Tokyo to meet with Prime Minister Kishida Fumio last week. Yoon’s predecessor, the progressive Moon Jae-in, demonstrated little interest official meetings with his Japanese counterparts across his five years as president, one of the few things he had in common with his conservative forbearer Park Geun-hye. Park, whose political opponents were quick to label her the daughter of a Japanese-trained military strongman, also avoided meetings with Abe Shinzo without an American mediator present. Instead, she focused her efforts on Chinese leader Xi Jinping, in a vain hope that he would play a proactive role in inter-Korean reconciliation. As the PRC’s bilateral trade with South Korea has come to dwarf exchanges between South Korea and Japan, so have its diplomatic interactions with Seoul’s leadership compared to Japan’s.

For those concerned about regional security, especially North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile arsenals and, increasingly, the PRC’s revisionist aims for the Indo-Pacific, the tensions between Japan and South Korea have long been a source of frustration. Their lack of cooperation hinders intelligence sharing, and prevents a united front against malign North Korean and PRC actions as Pyongyang and Beijing know they can use historical issues to drive a wedge between Washington’s two Northeast Asian allies.

Yet bad security policy has proven to be good politics in both countries. It’s only with recent developments—Beijing’s sanctions against South Korea over missile defense, its lack of transparency over COVID, its acts of cultural chauvinism at Korea’s expense—that South Koreans’ assessments of the PRC began to sink even lower than that of Japan. Even that is a phenomenon largely attributable to the younger generations in Korea, particularly 20- and 30-somethings who do not remember their country’s period of military dictatorship, spearheaded as it was by individuals who drew inspiration from Japan’s Meiji Restoration and who took aid from Japan in exchange for normalization. The generation beyond that, however, which resisted the military dictatorship, has generally been skeptical of deals with Japan—going all the way back to the 1965 normalization treaty—and are still disproportionately influential in Korean politics.

Add to that the fact even the younger, more anti-PRC generation isn’t particularly pro-Japan (as reactions to Yoon’s recent moves have revealed) and that Japanese politicians aren’t above downplaying their country’s historical record and pressing claims to territory South Korea administers, and it becomes clear why closer security ties between the two have remained a fantasy confined to the imaginations of American diplomats and generals.

At least, that’s what we thought. In recent weeks, Yoon’s government has announced a deal with Japan over the contentious issue of wartime forced labor. This resulted in enthusiastic—perhaps excessively so—reactions from partners of the two countries, including the United States. Then Yoon traveled to Tokyo—the first summit between Korean and Japanese heads of state in 12 years—and toasted with Kishida. Then Japan announced that it would lift its export restrictions on South Korea, a major step (albeit one confirming that the restrictions, announced in 2019 as tensions over the wartime labor began rising, were always politically motivated).

That these are serious steps toward rapprochement is beyond question. What is more debatable is how long-lasting they will be. Yoon’s steps have already been denounced by the Japan skeptics in the opposition party, who still have an overwhelming majority in the National Assembly. As noted above, even the younger generation that distrusts the PRC does not support Yoon’s forced-labor deal. Comparisons are already being made to the 2015 US-brokered deal in which Tokyo compensated the “Comfort Women”—wartime victims of Imperial Japanese sexual slavery—as a deal a conservative administration has struck without the majority support of the public, and which a progressive successor could easily undo. After all, the tensions with Japan that defined Moon’s administration did not begin with the forced laborers issue or Japan’s export whitelist, but escalated before that, when Moon annulled the Comfort Women deal.

The maverick Yoon, however, has some advantages that Park Geun-hye did not. He is not beholden to the legacy of the Park family—as head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, his most famous case is probably Park herself—nor to the legacy of Japanese colonization. His popularity, while never particularly high, may have already reached its nadir in late 2022. Yoon is also, unlike Park in 2015, less than a year into his presidency, with much time left for this supposed “betrayal” to fade from voters’ minds. Yoon, though less confrontational toward Beijing than some in the Anglosphere had hoped, is still far less accommodating of the PRC than Moon (or Park) and might yet cause a sharp shift in Northeast Asian security dynamics by moving closer to Tokyo.

The results, however, are not entirely up to him.

If Seoul’s partners and allies, concerned about the PRC and North Korea’s intentions for the region, want to see a South Korea that’s more active in the region, they need to encourage more activity following this development. The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue should, if it’s not going to make Seoul a fifth member, deepen and normalize their cooperation with it, either by itself or in a Quad-Plus format with other partners. Japan, which has not always been encouraging of South Korean participation in international forums such as the G7, should support Seoul as it seeks to embrace its “middle power” status, including increased engagement with ASEAN and the Pacific Islands, places where America’s partners are essential to US efforts to counter PRC influence.

While Japan’s leadership should not resort to censorship, it also does not behoove Tokyo’s efforts to strengthen bilateral ties when domestic politicians and political movements fan anti-Korean sentiment and receive little pushback.

The United States can also play a role that extends beyond words of affirmation—and can do so by taking some long-overdue steps. Both Korean and Japanese  manufacturers  have  cried  foul  over  2022 US Congressional legislation, which seeks to reshore American manufacturing but has had the side effect of nullifying tax credits and subsidies for foreign manufacturers, even those who, like Korean and Japanese companies, seek to build on the US mainland. Such manufacturers should have been rewarded regardless of Korea-Japan ties; that their relations are improving is as good a time as any to take such a step. Now would also be a good time to take steps toward a unified plan of action making countries, such as South Korea, less vulnerable to Beijing’s economic coercion.

Any deal between South Korea and Japan is more likely to endure the more Koreans see it as benefitting them. Yoon, whatever else one thinks of him, is taking a bold step in defiance of precedent and public opinion, but should not be the only one taking such steps. 

Rob York ([email protected]) is Director for Regional Affairs at Pacific Forum and editor of Comparative Connections: A Triannual E-journal of Bilateral Relations in the Indo-Pacific.

PacNet commentaries and responses represent the views of the respective authors. Alternative viewpoints are always welcomed and encouraged.

PacNet #23 – Japan’s new strategic policy: Three overlooked takeaways

Spread the love

Japan has signaled its intent to strengthen its national security and defense posture significantly in an increasingly volatile Indo-Pacific. When he met President Joe Biden in January 2023, Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, referring to Japan’s new National Security Strategy, declared he would “fundamentally reinforce our defense capabilities.” This includes raising the Japanese defense budget to approximately 2% of GDP by 2027. This will gratify many in Washington who share a determination to strengthen the alliance militarily and bolster combined deterrence postures.

Kishida’s remarks came a month after the release of the new National Security Strategy, accompanied by the National Defense Strategy (renaming the prior National Defense Program Guidelines) and Defense Build-Up Program (formerly Medium-Term Defense Program).

Together these documents together present a grim picture of the security situation Tokyo and its US ally face. The NSS states that “Japan’s security environment is as severe and complex as it has ever been since the end of World War II.” Russian aggression in Ukraine, Chinese assertiveness in the East and South China Seas and across the Taiwan Strait, and North Korea’s nuclear missile ambitions top the list of dangers. The NSS identifies them as countries that seek to “revise the existing international order.” In the context of strategic competition, the NSS states the boundaries between peace and war have become blurred through “gray zone” activities, malicious operations in the cyber and information spaces, the use of economic statecraft, and a vigorous technological arms race.

The NSS (along with NDS and DBP) represents a highly coordinated response on Japan’s part. They have been dubbed “historic,” a “paradigm shift,” and a “revolution” by some analysts, while some have offered more skeptical appraisals on their actual implementation. Heretofore debates have primarily centered on defense budget increases and acquisition of counter-strike capabilities.

But there are three other key leitmotivs of the documents that have not attracted as much comment.

First, the NSS unabashedly foregrounds “universal values” as a “national interest” and “fundamental principle” of its strategy. While many observers have questioned the sustainability of the former prime minister (and current vice president of the Liberal Democratic Party) Aso Taro’s “values-oriented diplomacy” since his time as party leader, it appears to be back with a vengeance. The NSS speaks of “upholding universal values such as freedom, democracy, respect for fundamental human rights, and the rule of law.” It excoriates states that do not share such values and points to their malignant actions to undermine a “free, open, and stable international order.” Japan’s commitment to project its Free and Open Indo-Pacific “vision” thus frames the almost Manichean contest between liberal democracies and authoritarian states as “a historical inflection point.” Japan now states it “will maintain and protect universal values.” For a country that long eschewed taking ideological leadership and intrusive democracy promotion, this emphatic statement is quite a departure.

Second, Japan’s new security strategy emphasises its “holistic” approach. This is evident in its “integrated” approach to strategy—where it will lever all aspects of its “comprehensive national power” (a term originally invented by the Chinese) to achieve its strategic objectives. It will employ diplomacy, defense capabilities, economic strengths, technological prowess, and intelligence assets in service of an integrated strategic approach. It seeks to create a “comprehensive defense architecture” by increasing coordination across organizational sectors such as the Japan Coast Guard and Maritime Self Defense Force, for example. The documents are replete with references to “cross-governmental” and “whole-of government” coordination, and “cross-community collaboration” (in advanced technology and R&D), indicating desire to break down institutional “siloing” that could impede a joined-up approach to the implementation of strategy.

This “integration” includes the military domain, where Japan continues to build a “Multi-Domain Defense Force” by marrying the “traditional” land-sea-air domains with the space, cyber, and electromagnetic domains. Integration also extends to allies and partners, with greater efforts to harmonize US and Japanese forces, since “No country can protect its security alone.” This includes bilateral integration with the United States through the Alliance Coordination Mechanism and Flexible Deterrent Options. The former focuses on information sharing, improving common situational awareness and coordinating responses from peacetime to conflict contingencies. The latter is designed to coordinate combined responses to deterring Chinese coercive activities within the maritime domain through military signalling and escalation control. Greater interoperability with close strategic partners, such as Australia and the United Kingdom, through Reciprocal Access Agreements, which provide legal and logistical frameworks  necessary to facilitate overseas training and military operations in one another’s countries, are a means toward improving inter-military coordination and force interoperability. This will result in a “multi-layered network” knitting together Japan’s regional ally and “like-minded” partners (e.g. Australia, India), in conjunction with “minilateral” mechanisms such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue and Trilateral Strategic Dialogue. Japan is thus transcending its role as a single bilateral “spoke” of the US-led “hub-and-spoke” alliance system to become a subsidiary “hub” itself.

Japan is now acting to become accountable for its own national defense, eventually assuming responsibility for dealing with any invasion more independently (by 2027). This does not portend a move to complete national defense “autonomy” and a decoupling from the US alliance, but rather a determination to progressively assume of the primary burden for self-defense of its national territory.  Though it will rely on its US ally for some time, this will be a major step, prospectively freeing up US forces based in Japan for other activities. The DBP also indicates that “Such a defense capability must come with high readiness and response capability.” To achieve this, the increased defense budget will need to be allocated accordingly to acquire counter-strike capabilities that can deter or defeat an enemy invasion, supported by a robust defense industrial base (a “virtually integral part of defense capability”), and a hardening of its defense facilities, with ample stocks of fuel and munitions. As well as providing for the defense of Japanese territory, this makes a greater contribution to the alliance considering the diminishing resources (and increasing obsolescence) of the US’ force posture.

Third, combined with greater responsibility for its own national defense is the emphasis on streamlining the “responsiveness” of its defense architecture. This is part to the overarching recognition that “a strategy that integrates its national responses at a higher level” is required. The 2016 Peace and Security Legislation set the groundwork for this by freeing Japan of some of the former constraints upon it activities and permitting more collaboration with allies and partners. If deterrence fails, responsiveness of government and defense apparatus will be at a premium. To improve reaction times, decision-making procedures will become more “seamless,” contingency plans drawn up, and the mobility and readiness of rapid reaction forces improved (“mobile deployment capabilities,” per the NDS). This builds upon the earlier establishment of a National Security Council (in 2013) and centralization of decision-making in the Prime Minister’s Office, initiated under Abe Shinzo. This extends to inter-service crisis response coordination between the Self Defense Forces, police, and Japan Coast Guard, for example.

Japan’s new strategic approach is perhaps best seen as an apotheosis of the determined efforts put in motion during the premiership of the late PM Abe, and a validation of these. This trajectory has been pursued by his successor Kishida, first in his “vision for peace” address to the Shangri-La Dialogue in June 2022. Unified by a clear statement of national objectives, including universal values and a commitment to uphold a rules-based order, Japan is investing heavily in marshalling the requisite resources to back this (“pragmatic realism”), drawn from the whole spectrum of the comprehensive national power it possesses. This is a recognition that strategic competition occurs across all domains, and it has become a national security imperative for Japan to improve its ability to deter and defend against attacks on its national territory, whilst assuming a greater burden within the US-Japan alliance. The ambitions of the national security documents, by their own admission are “unprecedented in terms of size and content.” Nevertheless, they signal Japan’s “steadfast resolve” to achieve them.

Time will tell if they are successfully implemented, or if they can be realized within the urgent timeframe available before a potential conflict breaks out.

Thomas Wilkins ([email protected]) is an Adjunct Senior Fellow (non-resident), Pacific Forum, Senior Fellow, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, and Associate Professor, University of Sydney.

PacNet commentaries and responses represent the views of the respective authors. Alternative viewpoints are always welcomed and encouraged.

Photo: Prime Minister Kishida Fumio commemorates the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the Maritime Self-Defense Force on Nov. 6 by Pool via Reuters. 

PacNet #16 – The World After Taiwan’s Fall – PART ONE

Spread the love

Let us start with our bottom line: a failure of the United States to come to Taiwan’s aid— politically, economically, and militarily—in the event of a takeover attempt by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) would devastate the Unites States’ credibility and defense commitments to its allies and partners, not just in the Indo-Pacific, but globally. If the United States tries but fails to prevent such a takeover, the impact could be equally devastating unless there is a concentrated, coordinated US attempt with likeminded allies and partners to halt further PRC aggression and eventually roll back Beijing’s ill-gotten gains.

This is not a hypothetical assessment. Taiwan has been increasingly under the threat of a military takeover by the PRC and, even today, is under attack politically, economically, psychologically, and through so-called “gray-zone” military actions short of actual combat. The US government, US allies, and others have begun to pay attention to this problem, yet to this day, they have not sufficiently appreciated the strategic implications that such a takeover would generate.

The study

To address this problem, the Pacific Forum has conducted a multi-authored study on “the World After Taiwan’s Fall” with the goal of raising awareness in Washington, key allied capitals, and beyond about the consequences of a PRC victory in a war over Taiwan and, more importantly, to drive them to take appropriate action to prevent it. The study, which provides six national perspectives on this question (a US, Australian, Japanese, Korean, Indian, and European perspective) and fed its findings and recommendations into the second round of the Pacific Forum-run Track-2 “US-Taiwan Deterrence and Defense Dialogue” (and sponsored by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency), outlines these strategic implications in two alternative scenarios. In the first scenario, the PRC attacks Taiwan and it falls with no outside assistance from the United States or others. In the other scenario, Taiwan falls to the PRC despite outside assistance (i.e., “a too little, too late” scenario).

The study’s main finding is that Taiwan’s fall would have devastating consequences for the United States and many countries in the region and beyond. Regardless of how it happens (without or despite US/allied intervention), Taiwan’s fall to the PRC would be earth shattering. The PRC could eclipse US power and influence in the region once and for all. Taiwan’s fall could lead to the advent of a Pax Sinica where Beijing and its allies would pursue their interests much more aggressively and with complete impunity. Nuclear proliferation in several parts of the Indo-Pacific could also be the net result of Taiwan’s fall, leading to much more dangerous regional and international security environments. To several authors, it would thus be necessary to build an Asian equivalent to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to prevent PRC adventurism and ultimately retake Taiwan.

Accordingly, the United States, its allies, and others should take major action—rapidly—to prevent such a development. In particular, the United States should lead an effort to strengthen collective deterrence and defense in the Indo-Pacific; this is especially important in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has shown territory takeovers still happen in the twenty-first century. The United States should also give serious consideration to establishing region-wide nuclear sharing arrangements; at a minimum, it should jumpstart research to examine the benefits, costs, and risks that such arrangements would bring to the Indo-Pacific security architecture, as well as assess the opportunities and challenges that such a development would present.

National perspectives on a PRC takeover of Taiwan

Each national perspective imagines broadly similar implications of a PRC takeover of Taiwan.

United States. Ian Easton’s chapter on the US perspective explained that Taiwan’s fall would be disastrous irrespective of how it happens because the Island is a leading democracy, has unique military and intelligence capabilities, plays a critical role in global high-tech supply chains, and benefits from a special geographic location in the heart of East Asia. Easton further contended that the outcome would be especially dire if Taiwan falls without the United States and others trying (even if they failed) to defend it. The result would be Taiwan’s destruction as a nation, the breakdown of the US alliance system, with some allies going nuclear and others falling into the PRC’s diplomatic orbit, plus increased PRC influence globally. Taiwan’s fall after an intense battle between the United States, its allies, and the PRC would not be as bad: Taiwanese resistance fighters would likely fight on, and the United States might be in a position to build a collective deterrence and defense system to keep the PRC in check. Still, the regional and global security orders would be shattered.

Australia. Malcolm Davis’ chapter on the Australian perspective painted a similarly dark picture. Regardless of how Taiwan’s fall happens, Davis explained that the PRC would be “much better placed to deny US forward presence, to weaken American geopolitical influence in Asia, and expand Beijing’s domination in the region.” He added that a US and allied failure to intervene would generate a “highly permissive environment for Beijing from which it could expand its influence and presence as well as coerce other opponents, notably Japan as well as Australia.” Meanwhile, in the event of a failed US/allied intervention, Davis contended that the outcome would be a substantial US defeat, which would reinforce the perception of US decline, or a protracted high intensity war with the PRC, and neither outcome would be good for Australia. Canberra, then, would have to recalibrate and fundamentally rethink its defense policy, its alliance with the United States, and its strategic relationships with other regional partners.

Japan. Matake Kamiya’s chapter on the Japanese perspective argued that Tokyo, too, would regard the Island’s fall to the PRC as deeply troubling. As Kamiya put it, “If China seizes Taiwan, the consequences—in political, military, economic, and even in terms of values and ideology—would have serious repercussions for Japan.” Kamiya considered that the outcome of Taiwan’s fall would be “equally bad” whether the fall takes place without or despite US/allied assistance. He pointed out that, in Japanese eyes, US credibility would be at stake if a PRC takeover takes place without US intervention and that the US ability to defend Japan effectively would be seriously questioned if there is a failed US intervention. Either way, serious problems would then likely emerge in the US-Japan alliance as a result.

South Korea. Duyeon Kim’s chapter on the Korean perspective echoed Kamiya’s on the Japanese perspective. Kim stressed that “the expected outcomes of Taiwan’s fall for Korea would be the same under the two scenarios—both equally bad in terms of South Korean perceptions and sentiments about the US security commitments to them and their interest in obtaining an independent nuclear deterrent.” Kim, however, did insist that much would depend on the degree to which South Koreans question US credibility and lose trust in Washington, as well as on the political party in power in Seoul, the state of the US-Korea alliance, the state of Korea-PRC relations, and North Korea’s nuclear capabilities and strategic calculus. Still, she argued that a determining factor would be President Xi Jinping’s worldview and the PRC’s economic situation. Either way, Kim stressed that a “constant outcome” could be an emboldened and more aggressive North Korea.

India. Jabin Jacob’s chapter on the Indian perspective argued that a PRC invasion of Taiwan would “change very little on the ground for India in terms of the bilateral [India-Taiwan] relationship itself…” Yet he explained that a PRC invasion of Taiwan would force India to refocus its national security policy squarely on the PRC, making it its primary threat. He added that India would also reconsider its relationship with the United States by distancing itself from Washington because a post-US world order would be in the making and, at the same time, seeking to extract concessions from Washington. More generally, Jacob stressed that Taiwan’s fall would have far-reaching (very negative) implications for India in its immediate neighborhood, in its wider Asian and Indian Ocean neighborhood, as well as at the international level.

Europe. Bruno Tertrais’ chapter on the European perspective began with a reminder that Europe has only recently begun to worry about the PRC and the possibility of a conflict over Taiwan and, as a result, views and perceptions on this matter vary widely. Still, Tertrais explained that Europeans agree that the economic and strategic consequences of Taiwan’s fall to the PRC would be problematic for Europe. Tertrais argued that a failed US/allied intervention would be “less damaging for Europe” because a failure to intervene risks inviting “renewed Russian aggressiveness.” In both cases, however, Tertrais explained that “the fall of Taiwan would be a wake-up call for Europe that it must act fast to be in a position to defend itself,” adding that several European countries would likely seek to strengthen their security and defense ties with several US Indo-Pacific allies.

This is Part One of a two-part PacNet. In Part Two, we will review in more depth some of the key findings and recommendations emanating from our study.

David Santoro ([email protected]) is President and CEO of the Pacific Forum. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSantoro1.

Ralph Cossa ([email protected]) is President Emeritus and WSD-Handa Chair in Peace Studies at Pacific Forum.

PacNet commentaries and responses represent the views of the respective authors. Alternative viewpoints are always welcomed and encouraged.

Issues & Insights Vol. 23, SR2 – The World After Taiwan’s Fall

Spread the love

Introduction

Let us start with our bottom line: a failure of the United States to come to Taiwan’s aid—politically, economically, and militarily—would devastate the Unites States’ credibility and defense commitments to its allies and partners, not just in Asia, but globally. If the United States tries but fails to prevent a Chinese takeover of Taiwan, the impact could be equally devastating unless there is a concentrated, coordinated U.S. attempt with likeminded allies and partners to halt further Chinese aggression and eventually roll back Beijing’s ill-gotten gains.

This is not a hypothetical assessment. Taiwan has been increasingly under the threat of a military takeover by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and, even today, is under attack politically, economically, psychologically, and through so-called “gray zone” military actions short of actual combat. The U.S. government, U.S. allies, and others have begun to pay attention to this problem, yet to this day, they have not sufficiently appreciated the strategic implications that such a takeover would generate. To address this problem, the Pacific Forum has conducted a multi-authored study to raise awareness in Washington, key allied capitals, and beyond about the consequences of a Chinese victory in a war over Taiwan and, more importantly, to drive them to take appropriate action to prevent it.

The study, which provides six national perspectives on this question (a U.S., Australian, Japanese, Korean, Indian, and European perspective) and fed its findings and recommendations into the second round of the DTRA SI-STT-sponsored (and Pacific Forum-run) Track 2 “U.S.-Taiwan Deterrence and Defense Dialogue,”[1] outlines these strategic implications in two alternative scenarios. In the first scenario, China attacks Taiwan and it falls with no outside assistance from the United States or others. In the other scenario, Taiwan falls to China despite outside assistance (i.e., “a too little, too late” scenario).

Download the full volume here.


Table of Contents

Introduction

David Santoro & Ralph Cossa

Chapter 1 | If Taiwan Falls: Future Scenarios and Implications for the United States

Ian Easton

Chapter 2 |  Chinese Victory over Taiwan – An Australian Perspective

Malcolm Davis

Chapter 3 | China’s Takeover of Taiwan Would Have a Negative Impact on Japan

Matake Kamiya

Chapter 4 | If Taiwan Falls to China: Implications for the Korean Peninsula

Duyeon Kim 

Chapter 5 | The Implications for India of a Successful Chinese Invasion of Taiwan

Jabin T. Jacob

Chapter 6 | The Consequences for Europe of a Successful Chinese Invasion of Taiwan

Bruno Tertrais

Conclusions

David Santoro & Ralph Cossa

PacNet #9 – The US Coast Guard: Provide public goods for a free and open Indo-Pacific

Spread the love

Ask a member of any coast guard in the world for their organization’s mission statement, and each time you will get a different answer. Even more troubling, ask coast guard members within a single coast guard, and answers will be no less diverse. Part of this stems from the coast guard’s multi-mission nature. It also stems from debates regarding the geographic bounds of these missions, ranging from those constrained within an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to blue water operations. Part of this also stems from the many organizations that can be labelled a “coast guard.”

Growing risks inherent in the renewed multi-polarity of the world require a more definitive answer. In this multi-polar environment, there has been a rise in gray zone activities, which increase the importance of coast guard capabilities to counter this problem. These capabilities, however, will not reach their full potential without an overall mission statement stating the purpose to which they will be leveraged.

The central mission for Coast Guards around the world should be the cooperative provision of public goods to uphold the rule of law. This leverages their multi-mission humanitarian nature, identifies their role in national security strategies, and drives cross-coast guard partnerships.

The impact of public goods on the character and definition of the rules-based order, a system now under significant challenge for the first time since the Cold War, is of critical importance. Successful provision of public goods can determine national choices. Public goods provision also focuses stakeholders on shared activity instead of reliance on dominant players. Their provision can decide the difference between acceptance of the rule of law, or acceptance of the rule of a dominant hegemon.

Potential strategies deployed by the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (“Quad”) powers—Japan, the United States, India, Australia—to support the free and open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) provide opportunities to examine this mission for global coast guards. The FOIP is a cooperative approach to defend the rule of law. Coast guard engagements across the Quad members offer potential to advance this goal, but not without agreement on their overarching mission priority.

Competing public goods providers

The cooperative underpinning of the FOIP strategy was a feature from the very beginning.   Japan’s free and open Indo-Pacific strategy was introduced in 2016 by Prime Minister Abe Shinzo as a vehicle to cooperatively “meet challenges to the maritime rules based order.” The United States saw it in a similar vein, “to engage like-minded nations in economic, security, and political governance partnerships.” The Quad Joint Leaders statement issued in May 2022 echoed these sentiments, describing governance as a central public good.

China has also noted needs in this area, stating that “accompanying traditional challenges are the long-term “insufficient supply” of regional marine governance public products such as “marine environmental protection, channel safety, maritime search and rescue, and fishery resource protection.” It argues for a hub-and-spokes model with some nations taking a more dominant role, noting “in maintaining world peace and development, major countries have a special responsibility to play an exemplary role in providing international public goods and providing positive energy for global governance.” Beijing sees itself as the potential leading provider of these public goods, particularly in the maritime domain, arguing China is the primary “defender of the international order, a contributor to global governance and a provider of international public goods.”

A rules-based order requires not just the existence of rules, but also their egalitarian application and enforcement. This enforcement is important for the preservation of the order, but is also a critical source of legitimacy for the regimes themselves (irrespective of their style or theory of governance, some academics argue). Many countries in the Indo-Pacific lack state capacity to enforce a maritime rules-based order. These may therefore default either to provision of enforcement goods (and their concomitant rules, whether applied equally or not) by one dominant regional hegemon (i.e. the Chinese hub-and-spoke model with a focus on centralization and bilateralism), or one where they partner with like-minded nations (such as the Quad, and/or other regional groupings).

Cooperative provision of public goods, working in partnership with domestic governments, enhances domestic regime legitimacy and strengthens the rules being enforced. China understands the importance of partnership within the narrative and has begun using these terms extensively in diplomatic speeches and media. The United States has also significantly increased its focus on partnerships in the Indo-Pacific.

When it comes to their status as providers of public goods, Quad powers possess significant narrative advantages. “Centralization” and “control” are key watchwords for policy in authoritarian systems, not “distributed responsibility” and “capacity-building.” This has the potential to hamstring authoritarian regimes across a range of policy areas, but specifically in narratives around partnership-driven, rules-based orders. That contrast is highlighted in the way the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and Japan Coast Guard (JCG) interact, with a strong history of joint operations that has been extended through recent bilateral agreements such as SAPPHIRE (Solid Alliance for Peace and Prosperity with Humanity and Integrity on the Rule-of-Law Based Engagement—joint counter-narcotics exercises between the Japan and United States coast guards). This partnership extends to other activities such as joint drug interdiction and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing patrols; and to multilateral activities with other regional powers inclusive of the Philippines and Vietnam.

The USCG has a wider array of partnerships across more mission types than any other US service or department. The International Port Security Program (IPSP) encourages and promotes best practices to enhance global supply chain integrity. Ship rider agreements, which permit the USCG to act on the behalf of a signatory country to observe and board vessels suspected of violating laws and regulations, are increasingly popular with states seeking deeper partnership with the United States. The 2023 US Coast Guard budget funds additional deployments of National Security Cutters and deployable specialized forces that support partner nation law enforcement. This is a broad base of initiatives and partnerships on which to build.

The absence of overarching strategy

The nature of strategy development within the USCG, however, inhibits its ability to lead a partnership-driven public goods provision strategy designed to strengthen the existing rules-based order.

The service has well-developed, long-range planning tools and programs inclusive of the launch and development of Project Evergreen, charged with building strategic foresight across the USCG. Its approach since its founding in 2003, however, suffers from two issues consistently. First, many of the USCG’s issue-specific strategies, including Arctic, its Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing (IUUF), and its Cybersecurity strategies provide detailed analysis of the issues at hand, but fail to place those issues into the context of the service’s overall mission. Second, broader strategies, such as the recently released 2022-2026 Coast Guard Strategic Plan, focus on tactics to address current implementation shortfalls. The 2022-2026 Strategic Plan’s three pillars (workforce, competitive edge, and mission excellence) are not linked to strategic objectives (such as, perhaps, cooperative provision of public goods to uphold the rule of law). This fixation on work plans and tasks, divorced from an overarching definition the service’s strategic objectives, leads to a myopic view of operations and holds the service back from achieving wider effects.

Provision of public goods, including the impartial enforcement of governance, underpin a world based on the rule of law. A global society pursuing public goods provision leverages the power of networks, where each connection strengthens the next. It does so in a way that centralized authoritarian systems cannot replicate given that they are not built for shared, reciprocal responsibilities.

The humanitarian multi-mission nature of coast guards make them ideal candidates to lead in this space. This should begin with the US’—and its Quad partners’—coast guards placing the collaborative provision of public goods at the core of their mission, as a first step to defend the rules based order in a multi-polar world.

James R. Sullivan ([email protected]) is a Non-Resident WSD-Handa Fellow at Pacific Forum.

PacNet commentaries and responses represent the views of the respective authors. Alternative viewpoints are always welcomed and encouraged.

Photo: Members of the Japan Coast Guard pose for a picture with crew members of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Oliver Henry off Guam, June 7, 2022 (9 June 2022, U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam)