Re­gional se­cu­rity needs ef­forts of China, US

Global Times US Edition - - FORUM - By Zhao Ming­hao The au­thor is a se­nior re­search fel­low with the Charhar In­sti­tute and an ad­junct fel­low at the Chongyang In­sti­tute for Fi­nan­cial Stud­ies at Ren­min Univer­sity of China. opinion@glob­al­

With the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil pass­ing new sanc­tions on North Korea, the pos­si­bil­ity of armed con­flict on the Korean Penin­sula seems to be in­creas­ing. But we all should broaden our hori­zons as the risks are even greater. In fact, the North Korean nu­clear and mis­sile cri­sis con­ceals other ma­jor is­sues af­fect­ing Asia-Pa­cific re­gional se­cu­rity.

While China and South­east Asian coun­tries pro­mote the Code of Con­duct in the South China Sea, the US mil­i­tary is in­creas­ing its so-called free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion op­er­a­tions.

On Au­gust 21, a tanker col­lided with the de­stroyer USS John McCain leav­ing 10 dead and five in­jured from the war­ship. Ac­ci­dents have be­set the US Sev­enth Fleet this year in the West Pa­cific. Many ex­perts see th­ese prob­lems as a man­i­fes­ta­tion of de­clin­ing US power.

Ter­ror­ism is a grow­ing threat in South­east Asia. Ex­trem­ist forces and mil­i­tants al­lied with the Is­lamic State have been fight­ing gov­ern­ment forces in the Philippine city of Marawi, with ex­treme Mus­lims from In­done­sia and Malaysia par­tic­i­pat­ing in the fight.

US in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials are as­sess­ing how many of more than 1,000 ji­hadists who trav­eled from South­east Asia to Iraq and Syria are re­turn­ing home. US De­fense Sec­re­tary James Mat­tis ac­knowl­edged the joint an­titer­ror­ism task force in the Philip­pines ended too soon.

A speech by US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump made waves in South Asia. Ex­perts gen­er­ally be­lieve Trump’s new strat­egy for Afghanistan lacks de­tail and re­gard his “fight to win” goal as un­re­al­is­tic.

Trump’s speech also sparked anger in Pak­istan by ac­cus­ing Islamabad of pro­vid­ing asy­lum to more than 20 ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions. Pak­istan’s For­eign Min­is­ter Khawaja Asif said the coun­try had made great sac­ri­fices against ter­ror­ism and would not be­come the scape­goat for oth­ers’ de­feats.

Con­flict be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan is also a ma­jor re­gional se­cu­rity is­sue. It is be­lieved In­dia and Pak­istan own more than 100 nu­clear war­heads apiece. The South Asian sub­con­ti­nent is like a nu­clear pow­der keg. Ter­ror­ists may ex­ploit the ha­tred be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan to pro­voke de­lib­er­ate con­flict. The Trump gov­ern­ment’s pol­icy of fa­vor­ing In­dia and pres­sur­iz­ing Pak­istan will fur­ther deepen Islamabad’s in­se­cu­rity.

Con­sid­er­ing the dis­cord be­tween China and In­dia over bor­der is­sues, some worry that South Asia will grad­u­ally pro­voke new pat­terns of joint con­fronta­tions that no coun­try can win, in­volv­ing the US and In­dia ver­sus China and Pak­istan.

It is ob­vi­ous the se­cu­rity chal­lenges fac­ing the Asia-Pa­cific are di­verse, com­plex and se­ri­ous. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Asia-Pa­cific pol­icy has so far been cri­sis-driven, fo­cus­ing overly on North Korea while lack­ing a com­pre­hen­sive, co­her­ent strat­egy. In ad­di­tion, be­cause of dis­or­dered White House de­ci­sion-mak­ing as well as a deficit of ap­pointed ex­pe­ri­enced se­nior of­fi­cials, there is doubt about Trump’s abil­ity to de­liver on pol­icy.

The US strate­gic cir­cle re­mains di­vided on whether the US can main­tain pri­macy in the Asia-Pa­cific. Frankly speak­ing, Amer­ica’s nar­cis­sis­tic ob­ses­sion with pri­macy is grad­u­ally im­ped­ing the US from ac­cu­rately grasp­ing the chang­ing strate­gic land­scape. US con­trol over the Asia-Pa­cific is in de­cline, both mil­i­tar­ily and eco­nom­i­cally.

Al­though the mil­i­tary gap be­tween China and the US is still sig­nif­i­cant, China’s eco­nomic im­pact on the re­gion is rapidly ris­ing. Ac­cord­ing to Reuters sta­tis­tics, In­done­sia’s and Malaysia’s ex­ports to China in­creased more than 40 per­cent in the first half of this year, while Thai­land’s and Sin­ga­pore’s in­creased nearly 30 per­cent. China has also in­vested in Asia-Pa­cific rail­ways, high­ways, ports and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion net­works. China has no wild am­bi­tion to re­place the US as a re­gional hege­mon, a costly and un­sus­tain­able ven­ture. Be­sides, Rus­sia, In­dia, Ja­pan and other coun­tries would not ac­cept Chi­nese hege­mony. In­stead, China is push­ing for a con­nec­tiv­ity-ori­ented grand strat­egy, pro­mot­ing pub­lic goods which are more con­ducive to re­gional de­vel­op­ment like the Asian In­fra­struc­ture In­vest­ment Bank. At the same time, China is play­ing an ever more im­por­tant role in non-tra­di­tional se­cu­rity ar­eas such as anti-ter­ror­ism, crack­ing down on transna­tional crimes and dis­as­ter re­lief. Al­though crises may draw closer, there is still a need to look at re­gional se­cu­rity from a com­pre­hen­sive, longterm per­spec­tive. With the de­cline of Amer­i­can in­flu­ence, re­gional coun­tries like China must as­sume re­spon­si­bil­ity for build­ing re­gional se­cu­rity frame­works. The White House is pre­par­ing for Pres­i­dent Trump’s visit to China in a few months. Surly strate­gic is­sues like how to co­or­di­nate Sino-US re­la­tions in the Asia-Pa­cific will cer­tainly be on the agenda.

Il­lus­tra­tion: Liu Rui/GT

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