Monday, July 31, 2017

Washington’s shifting nuclear policy in the Asia-Pacific region

Puts Japan in a difficult position and enhances its policy contradictions

By David McNeill,
Tokyo-based journalist and writer, APP member

THE JAPAN TIMES, JULY 29, 2017

A global ban on nuclear weapons was approved earlier this month at the U.N. headquarters in New York. A total of 122 countries signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. None of the signatories, however, possesses a nuclear bomb.

The world’s nuclear club — the United States, Britain, Russia, China, France, India, Israel, Pakistan and, most recently, North Korea — boycotted the talks, arguably dooming them to failure. Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said in March that Washington couldn’t allow “bad actors” to have nuclear weapons and “those of us that are good, trying to keep peace and safety, not to have them.”

A joint statement by the United States, Britain and France on July 7 said the ban “disregards the realities of the international security environment.” As a result, all countries that rely on the nuclear deterrent either stayed away (including South Korea), voted against the ban (the Netherlands) or abstained (Singapore).

Japan’s absence from the talks was striking. The U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, which are estimated to have killed or wounded more than 200,000 people, mostly civilians, remain the only use of nuclear weapons in warfare, giving Japan considerable moral heft in any discussion on abolition.

Tokyo’s disarmament ambassador, Nobushige Takamizawa, lamented in March at the beginning of negotiations that while his country would “continue to pursue realistic and effective” disarmament measures, “regrettably” it was unable to join the talks.

Toshiki Fujimori, assistant secretary-general of Nihon Hidankyo, greets Elayne Whyte Gomez, president of the U.N. conference on prohibiting nuclear weapons, after participants voted to adopt a ban on nuclear arms on July 7.

Toshiki Fujimori, assistant secretary-general of Nihon Hidankyo, greets Elayne Whyte Gomez, president of the U.N. conference on prohibiting nuclear weapons, after participants voted to adopt a ban on nuclear arms on July 7. | KYODO

The decision appalled Japan’s hibakusha, the dwindling survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings. Toshiki Fujimori, assistant secretary-general of Nihon Hidankyo, an organization for atomic bomb victims, said it left him “heartbroken.” Fujimori was little more than a year old when the bomb exploded over Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945.

Terumi Tanaka, former director of Hidankyo, says he believes diplomatic pressure was brought to bear on Japanese officials.

“Up until the day before the negotiation convened, the minister of foreign affairs showed an intent to attend the negotiations but, in the end, he didn’t,” Tanaka said. “I think there was influence from the Prime Minister’s Office not to go.”

Japan has for decades acknowledged the anti-nuclear cause while sheltering under the U.S. defense umbrella. The nation’s so-called three non-nuclear principles, outlined by Prime Minister Eisaku Sato and formally adopted in 1971, state that Japan shall neither possess nor produce nuclear weapons, nor shall it permit their introduction into Japanese territory.

“Japan is the only country in the world to have suffered the ravages of atomic bombing,” said Sato, accepting the 1974 Nobel Peace Prize for his contribution to the efforts toward nonproliferation of nuclear weapons. “That experience left an indelible mark on the hearts of our people, making them passionately determined to renounce all wars.”

However, those noble sentiments were not safe from the Cold War calculations needed to maintain the facade of pacifism in a heavily nuclearized neighborhood, when the Soviet Union and then China acquired their own deterrents against what they saw as potential U.S. aggression.

Japan’s no-nuke rule was undermined by a backroom deal struck between Washington and Tokyo, signed by Sato and President Richard Nixon in 1969. The deal allowed the possibility that nuclear-armed U.S. ships and aircraft traffic anywhere through or over Japanese territory for decades.

Politicians on both sides of the Pacific repeatedly denied the deal. In February 2016, Washington finally admitted what had almost become an open secret — that nuclear weapons were stored in Okinawa in Japan’s far south before its reversion to Japanese rule in May 1972. The secret agreement allowed for their re-introduction without prior Japanese consent in times of crisis.

Japan’s abstention from this year’s U.N. conference, therefore, did not come out of the blue. In 1998, it declined to sign a U.N. resolution against no first use of a nuclear weapon. Washington has historically maintained the right to a preemptive strike. Attempts to end the policy are typically condemned as liberal naivete.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appears to agree. Last year, shortly after standing beside U.S. President Barack Obama on his historic visit to Hiroshima, Abe reportedly expressed “concern” that the United States was weighing whether or not to end its policy of no first use. Abe warned Adm. Harry Harris Jr., head of the U.S. Pacific Command, that deterrence against North Korea would suffer as a result, according to a report in The Washington Post, a report that has not been denied.

Japanese officials rarely discuss such nuclear issues publicly — hardly surprising given their unpopularity: Just 5 percent of Japanese people said they wanted their country to possess nuclear weapons in a poll conducted by think tank Genron in 2016. In South Korea, by contrast, the figure is consistently over 50 percent.

A senior Japanese defense official, speaking off the record owing to the sensitivity of the issue, said whatever his personal feelings, the “reality” is that as part of Japan’s alliance with the United States, the nuclear deterrent is necessary.

“We share the view that we should have a peaceful and stable world without nuclear weapons, but can we one-sidedly do away with them?” the official asked. “If someone has nuclear weapons, they must believe in them.”

The contradictions of Japan’s position, however — acknowledging domestic sentiment on nuclear weapons while supporting the United States’ right to deploy and use them — are likely to become more glaring as tensions in East Asia grow.

As the Cold War eased following the fall of Soviet communism, U.S. President George Bush almost halved America’s nuclear stockpile, withdrawing tactical nukes from ships and submarines across Asia in 1991. His son, George W. Bush, cut the global stockpile again.

China’s growing economic and military clout and, since 2006, the entry of North Korea into the group of nuclear powers have helped convince Pentagon planners that such moves may have been premature. The shifting U.S. defense policy puts Japan in a difficult position as it tries to deal with three nuclear-armed states on its doorstep.

Bush’s “liberal” successor, Barack Obama, authorized “the largest expansion of funding on nuclear weapons since the fall of the Soviet Union,” said the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, a Washington think tank, in September 2014. The $1 trillion splurge puts the world on track for a 21st-century arms race, it warned.

Washington will not rule out a first-strike option against China, says Gregory Kulacki, a China specialist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a think tank.

“(China) has been asking that for 10 years, and we won’t give it to them,” Kulacki says.

Since building its first nuclear bomb in 1964, Beijing has repeatedly reaffirmed a no first-use policy.

The Pentagon’s Strategic Command, meanwhile, which was charged with obliterating the Soviet Union during the Cold War, is working on a new evaluation to determine “whether the Russian and Chinese leadership could survive a nuclear strike and keep operating,” the Bloomberg news agency reported.

Critics say the “modernization” of U.S. nuclear forces is code for a technological leap, increasing America’s capacity to fight and win a nuclear war.

“This increase in capability is astonishing — boosting the overall killing power of existing U.S. ballistic missile forces by a factor of roughly three,” says a paper in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in March. That, in turn, encourages America’s enemies to keep their own fingers on the trigger, the paper’s authors say.

These developments make Japan’s long-standing duality increasingly untenable, Kulacki says.

Historically, he says, there have been two sets of Japanese voices on U.S. nuclear weapons policy. The first, reflecting the majority of the Japanese public, “is strongly opposed to the use of U.S. nuclear weapons in the defense of Japan.”

The second, Kulacki says, “is a small and secretive group of bureaucrats in Japan’s defense and foreign policy institutions who may have different views.” Alarmed by China’s territorial claims to much of East Asia, as well as North Korea’s five nuclear tests, these bureaucrats are working harder to reverse the Bush legacy, he says.

“They have made a sustained effort to have U.S. tactical nuclear weapons redeployed in Asia,” Kulacki says. In addition, he says, the once-taboo notion of “tailored nuclear options” has growing support on both sides of the Pacific.

For tailored, read “usable.”

“(Bureaucrats) believe that a credible threat to use nuclear weapons first or preemptively is necessary for maintaining the credibility of the U.S. nuclear deterrent in Asia,” Kulacki says.

Defense officials in Japan will neither confirm nor deny these claims. Noboru Yamaguchi, a retired lieutenant general with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Forces, who supports the modernization of America’s nuclear arsenal, says tactical nukes in East Asia “don’t make any sense.”

“Tactical nuclear weapons used to be a good tool to compensate for inferiority in conventional arms,” Yamaguchi says. “Not any longer — we are conventionally superior. In this region, the U.S. Navy and Japanese Navy have always been superior to any other navy, including the Chinese or the Soviets, so there is no need to rely on such weapons.”

Ramesh Thakur, director of the Centre for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament at the Australian National University and author of “Nuclear Weapons and International Security,” calls such a strategy a seductive illusion.

“The limited utility of nuclear weapons rests on the certainty of nuclear retaliation, not in any belief in its first use,” Thakur says. “First-use posture is a Cold War deterrence legacy whose logic breaks down once nuclear weapons are used and the empirical reality is transformed from peacetime deterrence … to fighting an actual war.”

Thakur is “skeptical” of the strength and influence of pro-nuclear officials in the Japanese national security bureaucracy. Nevertheless, the distance between them and mainstream thinking in the government appears to have narrowed under Abe, Thakur says.

Some analysts note, for example, that Shotaro Yachi, a key Abe aide, was a disciple of Kei Wakaizumi, the diplomat who negotiated the secret deal with Nixon in 1969. Wakaizumi is believed to have been a “realist” who wanted to end Japan’s “insular pacifism” and over-reliance on U.S. military protection, says Giulio Pugliese, a lecturer in war studies in King’s College London.

That said, Japan is very unlikely to go so far as to start building its own nuclear arsenal for protection, despite Donald Trump telling The New York Times while running for U.S. president last year that it might not be such a “bad thing” if Japan (and South Korea) developed nuclear weapons.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden had also played a similar card last year. “What happens if Japan, who could go nuclear tomorrow? They have the capacity to do it virtually overnight,” Biden told Chinese President Xi Jinping in June 2016.

While few doubt that Japan has the required capital, technology and raw materials, there is more to joining the nuclear club than that, says Alessio Patalano, a reader in East Asian warfare and security at the Department of War Studies at King’s College London.

“You need civil-military relations set up, command and control, a national security council,” Patalano says. “And you need political confidence to understand the complexity of how to use nuclear weapons.”

Another obstacle is popular opposition — merely floating the idea of a nuclear weapon would most likely be tantamount to political suicide — and the certainty that it would trigger a regional arms race.

Whatever the thinking, tactical nuclear weapons in East Asia would be a disaster, says Thakur, ratcheting up tensions with China and North Korea and potentially spooking Kim Jong-un into launching a preemptive strike on Seoul if he fears imminent U.S. attack.

“Remember, Pyongyang has been living with hair-trigger sensitivity and preparing for a U.S. attack for decades,” Thakur says. “A nuclear umbrella may offer protection of the great and powerful ally, but any actual use ceases to be protective and instead morphs into the most catastrophically self-destructive security guarantee imaginable.”

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Monday in Washington, July 30, 2017

Washington tries to go on vacation this week. The US Senate remains in session for the week. The House is on recess. President Trump is not known for taking extended time outs.

NATO AT A CROSSROADS: NEXT STEPS FOR THE TRANS-ATLANTIC ALLIANCE. 7/31, 10:00-11:30am. Sponsor: Brookings. Speakers: Michael E. O’Hanlon, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, Brookings, Director of Research, Foreign Policy, Brookings; Steven Pifer, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Center for 21st Century and Intelligence, Center on the United States and Europe, Brookings, Director, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative, Brookings. Moderator: Torrey Taussig, Pre-Doctoral Research Fellow, Foreign Policy Program, Brookings.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Monday in Washington, July 24, 2017

GLOBAL ECONOMIC CHALLENGES: A CONVERSATION WITH IMF MANAGING DIRECTOR CHRISTINE LAGARDE. 7/24, 10:30-11:30am. Sponsor: Center for Global Development. Speakers: Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, IMF. Moderator: Masood Ahmed, President, Center for Global Development.

HOUSE FREEDOM CAUCUS CHAIRMAN REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC). 7/24, Noon-2:00pm. Sponsor: National Press Club. Speaker: Mark Meadows, Representative (R-NC), U.S. Congress.

BIPARTISAN TASK FORCE ON REFORMING AND REORGANIZING U.S. FOREIGN ASSISTANCE REPORT LAUNCH. 7/24, 2:00-3:30pm. Sponsor: Project on U.S. Leadership in Development, CSIS. Speakers: Senator Todd Young (R-IN), Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH); Moderator: Daniel F. Runde, William A. Schreyer Chair, Global Analysis, Director, Project on U.S. Leadership in Development, CSIS.

MEDIA DIPLOMACY: CHALLENGING THE INDO-PAK MEDIA NARRATIVE. 7/24, 3:00-5:00pm. Sponsor: Atlantic Council. Speakers: Mushahid Hussain, Senator, Parliament of Pakistan; H.E. Manish Tewari, Former Minister, Information and Broadcasting. Moderator: Dr. Bharath Gopalaswamy, Director, South Asia Center, Atlantic Council.

DEBATE: IS COPYRIGHT A PROPERTY RIGHT? 7/24, 6:30-8:30PM. Sponsor: Competitive Enterprise Institute. Speakers: Jim Harper, Vice President, Competitive Enterprise Institute; Sasha Moss, Technology Policy Manager, R Street Institute; Krisitan Stout, Associate Director for Innovation Policy, International Center for Law and Economics. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Asia’s hierarchies of humiliation

With nationalism on the rise across Asia, leaders have strong incentives to craft a version of history that advances their cause
PHILADELPHIA – Indian and Chinese troops have been locked in a standoff in Doka La — where the borders of Bhutan, China and India meet — for almost a month now, the longest such impasse between the two armies since 1962. In a not-so-subtle reference to that last conflict, in which India suffered a disastrous defeat, Chinese Ministry of National Defense spokesperson Col. Wu Qian has warned India to “learn from historical lessons.” But the lessons of history have a peculiar tendency to adapt to the perspective of those citing them.
China sees in the 1962 conflict the price an uppity neighbor had to pay for not acceding to its territorial demands. But for India that conflict was a humiliation that has rankled the country for more than half a century. The reminder of it is therefore likely to have the opposite effect than Wu anticipated.
In international relations, to be humiliated means more than to be embarrassed. It amounts to the public degradation of another actor, a denial of its bid for status and the establishment of a clear hierarchy. Wars provide the opportunity for humiliation in very stark ways, because defeat on the battlefield tends to bring not just ridicule and derision, but also clear losses, particularly of territory.
If any country should understand the impact that such humiliations can have, it is China. In fact, as Wu was relaying his message to India, Chinese President Xi Jinping was asserting, at the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China, that the move had ended the “humiliation and sorrow” inflicted by Britain when it took over the city in 1842.
This reflects the Chinese Communist Party’s broader use of China’s “century of humiliation,” which allegedly ended only when the CCP established the People’s Republic in 1949, to fuel a resurgent nationalism. During that period, China’s self-image as East Asia’s pre-eminent power was shattered by a series of defeats, which were particularly painful when inflicted by upstart Japan.
Despite this acute awareness of the enduring impact of its own humiliations, China often fails to recognize how its own past actions might have spurred similar feelings in others. Its 1962 defeat of India was the culmination of a decadelong competition for leadership of the newly independent countries that had emerged from decolonization. It therefore amounted to a devastating blow to India’s aspirations to be the undisputed leader of the Non-Aligned Movement.
India is far from the only country that has been humiliated at the hands of China. In Vietnam, the phrase “1,000 Years of Chinese Domination” has as much resonance as “100 Years of Foreign Humiliation” has in China.
But China is not the only country to have been humiliated and humiliated others in turn. While India was humiliated by China in 1962, it also inflicted what its neighbor Pakistan remembers as a humiliating defeat nine years later. Since independence in 1947, Pakistan had vied to establish itself as India’s equal in South Asia, joining alliances led by the United States or cozying up to China to demonstrate its strategic relevance. The 1971 Indo-Pakistani War, which led to the independence of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), crushed those hopes.
Yet Pakistan, too, remains oblivious to the humiliating impact of its own actions: Its nearly four-decade-long history of interference in Afghanistan to secure “strategic depth” will leave Afghanistan traumatized for years to come, in a way that Russia-inflicted losses did not. The same is true of all the aforementioned humiliations: They are particularly painful because an Asian neighbor, not a distant power, inflicted them.
Such humiliations, as we have seen with China, have a long-lasting impact. Indeed, they can create an all-consuming desire for vengeance that overwhelms more sober foreign policy motivations. That is why, for example, Pakistan’s army is prepared to undermine all other national institutions in the country it is sworn to defend, in the name of wounding India.
With nationalism on the rise across Asia, leaders have strong incentives to craft a version of history that advances their cause, and few historical memories are as effective for this purpose as those of traumatic humiliation. China has mastered this art, but it can be seen elsewhere, too, including in India. The key is to create a hierarchy of humiliations, according to which those inflicted on one’s own country are regarded as vitally important, and those inflicted on others are diminished, remembered only to reaffirm the status hierarchy.
Yet, as the ongoing dispute in Doka La makes clear, such an approach can create serious risks. After World War I, when Europe failed to address adequately its legacy of humiliation, the results were catastrophic. After World War II, however, Europe rose to the challenge, setting the stage for unprecedented regional cooperation. One hopes that Asia takes a similar tack — before simmering anger over historical humiliations boils over.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Trump's Zig-Zag China Policy Is Confusing U.S. Allies

The president has a famously limited amount of patience and a habit of changing his mind.

By Dennis P. Halpin
, a former adviser on Asian issues to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is a visiting scholar at the U.S.-Korea Institute (SAIS) and a Senior Fellow at Asia Policy Point

The National Interest, July 19, 2017

President Trump has proven as unpredictable on his East Asia policy as he has on a number of other policy issues during his first almost six months in office. In December, prior to his inauguration, Trump made an unprecedented decision to accept a congratulatory phone call from Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen—the first such call since the U.S. severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979 as a prerequisite for the establishment of Washington’s embassy in Beijing.

Then, after the April summit in Mar-a-Lago with China’s Xi Jinping, who seemed to be his best new buddy, President Trump made an about-face and told Reuters that he would want to speak with Xi first before any further telephone conversations with Tsai. “I really feel that he is doing everything in his power to help us with a big situation (North Korea),” Trump said. “So I wouldn’t want to be causing difficulty right now for him.” He added that he thought Xi was “doing an amazing job as a leader and I wouldn’t want to do anything that comes in the way of that. So I would certainly want to speak to him first.”

In response to Trump’s remarks, Taiwan’s presidential office was quoted by Newsweek as stating that it had no plans “at this stage” to hold a call, and that it understood the United States had priorities in handling regional affairs. President Tsai had previously told Reuters that Taiwan’s ties with the United States have been improving. “Taiwan may need to buy from its sole arms supplier the F-35 fighter jet, the most advanced stealth warplane in the U.S. arsenal. We have the opportunity to communicate more directly with the U.S. government,” Tsai said. “We don’t exclude the opportunity to call President Trump himself, but it depends on the needs of the situation and the U.S. government’s consideration of regional affairs.”

Concern over maintaining America’s steadfast commitment to Taiwan—as stipulated in the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) and the “Six Assurances” of President Ronald Reagan—arose afterwards, especially when Trump told the Wall Street Journal in a January 13 interview that “everything is under negotiation, including (the) ‘one China’ (policy).” The fear was that Trump might consider making concessions to Beijing at Taiwan’s expense.

In the Trumpian era of “Art of the Deal” diplomacy, there was speculation that a more favorable trade deal for China with the United States could become an enticement for soliciting Beijing’s cooperation on North Korea, as some previous tweets have suggested. An even greater fear was that the security of Taiwan, as one of Beijing’s self-declared “core interests,” could be bartered for progress on the North Korean nuclear imbroglio. This was despite the fact that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had publicly testified at his Senate confirmation hearing that “the people of Taiwan are friends of the United States and should not be treated as a bargaining chip. The U.S. commitment to Taiwan is both a legal commitment and a moral imperative.”

But, then again, not so fast. The new American president has a famously limited amount of patience. President Trump tweeted on June 20, the day after the death of Otto Warmbier, the U.S. student who was held captive in North Korea for over a year in a coma that Chinese help with North Korea “has not worked out.” (One could almost feel sorry for Xi Jinping as he was apparently given only two months after Mar-a-Lago to solve the intractable North Korean nuclear issue.) This was followed at the end of June by the announcement of a new $1.4 billion arms sales package for Taiwan and a U.S. Treasury Department announcement of sanctions on China’s Bank of Dandong for, according to CNN, serving “as a pipeline to support alleged illicit North Korean financial activity.” The policy zig back toward Taiwan definitely caused major displeasure in Beijing. The Chinese Embassy in Washington released a statement asserting that the sale of arms to Taiwan “grossly interferes” in China’s domestic affairs.

Taipei is not the only American friend in East Asia to be befuddled by the zigs and zags of U.S. policy in the Trump era. The new president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, arrived in Washington just as President Trump was again talking tough on Pyongyang in the aftermath of Otto Warmbier’s tragic death, stating U.S. patience with the North Korean regime “is over.” However, when Moon Jae-in was elected in May as an advocate of a renewed “Sunshine Policy” of engagement with North Korea, he seemed to be in sync with the latest Trump administration diplomacy. On May 1, just nine days before Moon Jae-in’s election, President Trump told Bloomberg News that he would be willing to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “under the right circumstances” and that “I would be honored to do it.”

Moon Jae-in himself then said, after taking the oath of office, “If the conditions shape up, I will go to Pyongyang.” But Moon apparently spoke too soon, during a brief Trump zig toward Pyongyang before the zag again away following North Korea’s July 4 intercontinental ballistic missile test. President Trump then tweeted a decidedly different tune declaring that it was “hard to believe South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer.” So it seems neither Donald Trump nor Moon Jae-in will be breaking bread in Pyongyang (or sharing a bowl of rice) with Kim Jong-un any time soon.

A final issue of allied concern in the East Asia region is freedom of navigation in the South China Sea following Beijing’s arms buildup in the area on man-made islands. This has continued unabated despite a stunning rebuff to Chinese territorial claims just a year ago by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), which left Beijing’s “nine-dash line” in tatters. That July 12, 2016, ruling was a decisive victory for Manila and previous Philippine president Benigno Aquino, whose administration brought the suit to the Hague in 2013.

New Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, however, has indicated that the Hague ruling could “take a back seat” to reopened bilateral negotiations with China—which prefers, as the self-proclaimed “big country,” to pick off “small country” South China Sea territorial claimants one at a time. In conjunction with Duterte’s visit to Beijing last fall, where he received applause in the Great Hall of the People for calling for “separation” from the United States, the Philippines Defense Minister announced that plans with the United States “for joint patrols and naval exercises in the disputed South China Sea have been put on hold.”

The released transcript of an April 29 phone call between Presidents Trump and Duterte, as reported in the New York Times, records no mention at all of the South China Sea issue—Manila’s number one national-security threat as well as a major concern for its Washington treaty ally. Instead, the pair discussed Duterte’s controversial anti-drug campaign involving extrajudicial killings—Trump reportedly praised him for doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem”—as well as the North Korean nuclear threat. The later point of discussion caused some confusion among area experts as America’s Philippine ally, unlike South Korea and Japan, lies hundreds of miles away from North Korea.

The South China Sea territorial question remains the key issue, however, for not only the Philippines but for other Association of Southeast Asian countries. U.S. freedom of navigation (FON) operations in these waters, which occurred with regularity under the Obama administration, did not take place during the first four months of the new Trump administration. This was possibly due to the administration’s attempts to curry favor with Beijing on the North Korean nuclear issue. Then, however, on May 24, according to a report by CNN, in an apparent policy zag back to more orthodox U.S. Navy operating procedure in the South China Sea, “the USS Dewey sailed within twelve miles of Mischief Reef, in the Spratly Island chain, on Wednesday in a ‘freedom of navigation operation.’” A complication is that Mischief Reef has been the subject of an ongoing territorial dispute between Beijing and America’s Philippine ally. Thus, if the Duterte administration decides not to press the issue with the Chinese, the United States could run the risk of appearing more Catholic than the Pope in pursuing freedom of navigation near Mischief Reef.

This first Trump administration FON was followed by another in early July when the USS Stethem sailed within twelve nautical miles of Triton Island. The Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement claiming that the U.S. vessel had “trespassed” in China’s territorial waters, further noting “its behavior has violated Chinese law and relevant international law, infringed upon China’s sovereignty, disrupted peace, security and order of the relevant waters and put in jeopardy the facilities and personnel on the Chinese islands; and thus constitutes a serious political and military provocation.”

Thus, all the zigging and zagging of Trump administration East Asia policy in its first months, especially with regards to issues of concern to potential regional rival China, has caused confusion in Allied capitals and consternation in Beijing. It seems related to the rather unrealistic hope that China will provide assistance as its North Korean ally advances toward development of a nuclear delivery capability that could strike the American homeland. As the reality sets in that the Chinese cavalry is not about to ride to the rescue of Americans facing an escalating North Korean nuclear threat, a more traditional East Asian policy approach may emerge in the months ahead. One can only hope.

10th Anniversary of Comfort Women resolution


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Monday in Washington, July 17, 2017

THE RUSSIA CHALLENGE IN EUROPE. 7/17, 10:00am-Noon. Sponsor: Defense Project, CSIS; Defense-Industrial Initiatives Group, CSIS. Speakers: Tom Cotton, Senator (R-AR), U.S. Congress; Thomas Karako, Senior Fellow, International Security Program, CSIS; Heidi Shyu, Chairman of the Board, Roboteam North America; (Ret.) Col. Dan Roper, Director, National Security Studies, AUSA; Andrew Philip Hunter, Director, Defense-Industrial Initiatives Group, CSIS.

A POSITIVE NAFTA RENEGOTIATION: PART 2. 7/17, 10:30am-1:30pm, Webcast. Sponsor: Peterson Institute. Speakers: John J. Hamre, President, CEO, CSIS; Chad P. Brown, Senior Fellow, Trade Policy, PIIE; Patrick Leblond, Senior Fellow, Gender & Human Rights, CIGI; Daniel C. Etsy, Hillhouse Professor, Environmental Law and Policy, Yale Law School; Gary Clyde Hufbauer, Critical Energy Sector, PIIE.

click to order
ISRAEL FACING A NEW MIDDLE EAST: IN SEARCH OF A NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY. 7/17, Noon-2:00pm. Sponsor: Islamism and the International Order, Hoover Institution. Speakers: Author Peter Berkowitz, Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution and Brigadier General (Res.) Itai Brun, Former Head, Research Department, Military Intelligence Directorate, Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Israel.

NORTH KOREA’S CONTINUOUS PROVOCATIONS. 7/17, Noon-1:00pm. Sponsor: RAND Corporation. Speaker: Bruce Bennett, Senior International/Defense Researcher, RAND Corporation.

GLOBAL HEALTH SECURITY: INVESTING GLOBALLY MATTERS LOCALLY. 7/17, 12:30-2:00pm. Sponsor: Global Health Council. Speakers: Dr. David Smith, Acting Assistant Secretary, Health Affairs, Defense; Chris Collins, President, Friends Of The Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis, And Malaria; Amie Batson, Chief Strategy Officer, Vice-President, Strategy And Learning PATH; Garrett Grigsby, Director, Office Of Global Affairs, U.S. Department Of Health And Human Services; Audrey Jackson, Senior Fellow, Global Health Policy Center, CSIS; Nancy Knight, Director, Division Of Global Health Protection, CDC. Moderator: Ambassador Mark Lagon, Chief Policy Officer, Friends Of The Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis, And Malaria.

CYBER RISK MONDAY: THE DARKENING WEB. 7/17, 3:30pm. Sponsor: Atlantic Council. Speakers: Laura Galante, Galante Strategies, Former Director, Global Intelligence, FireEye; Jane Holl Lute, CEO, SICPA North America, Former Deputy Secretary, US Department of Homeland Security, Board Director, Atlantic Council; Fred Kempe, President, CEO, Atlantic Council; Alexander Klimburg, Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council, Program Director, Hague Centre for Strategic Studies. Moderator: Tal Kopan, Political Reporter, CNN.