Ex­pert calls on ASEAN to boost mar­itime strength

The Myanmar Times - - Asean Focus -

AS chair of ASEAN next year, Thai­land needs to push for a strong ini­tia­tive on the Code of Con­duct to show the re­gional bloc’s mar­itime strength, a Ja­panese se­cu­rity ex­pert said on Mon­day.

“Free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion is a vi­tal in­ter­est for all the re­gion. We wish to see free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion firmly em­be­ded in fu­ture mar­itime con­cerns,” Ken Jimbo, a pro­fes­sor of pol­icy man­age­ment at Keio Uni­ver­sity, said.

The pres­ence of the US Navy in the South China Sea will con­tinue to act as a buf­fer help­ing ASEAN re­sist co­er­cion from China, he said.

Con­clu­sion of the code is a key step in en­sur­ing mar­itime peace and sta­bil­ity in the re­gion, Jimbo said, and the US-Ja­pan al­liance needs to be up­graded and Wash­ing­ton’s com­mit­ment to Asia strength­ened.

Tokyo is ready to as­sist ASEAN’s mar­itime ca­pac­ity in deal­ing with Chi­nese ag­gres­sion, he added.

“Hav­ing a so­phis­ti­cated, ca­pa­ble mar­itime coast­guard is very im­por­tant in keep­ing a lid on the ten­sion and pre­vent­ing an es­ca­la­tion of con­flict. That will make the re­gion more re­silient and more con­fi­dent in deal­ing with China,” he said. He said the bloc is an im­por­tant strate­gic plat­form for Ja­pan.

Jimbo made the re­marks ahead of a fo­rum, “Ja­pan’s Indo-Pa­cific Strat­egy: Con­cepts, Op­por­tu­ni­ties and Chal­lenges,” at Tham­masat Uni­ver­sity.

He said Tokyo has stepped up its pres­ence in the re­gion and is seek­ing a free and open Indo-Pa­cific strat­egy to help bal­ance the shift in power.

The strat­egy com­prises pro­mot­ing the rule of law; free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion, free trade, and pur­su­ing eco­nomic pros­per­ity through im­proved con­nec­tiv­ity be­tween Asia, the Mid­dle East and Africa via ports and rail­ways; and a com­mit­ment to peace and sta­bil­ity.

Es­sen­tially, it aims to con­nect Asia and Africa, as well as the Pa­cific and In­dian oceans. It wants to de­velop a free and open mar­itime or­der in the Indo-Pa­cific and se­cure peace and pros­per­ity in the re­gion, Jimbo said.

Thai­land and Asean can find ways to cap­i­talise on the com­pet­i­tive na­ture of China’s Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive (BRI) and Indo-Pa­cific strat­egy.

“The strat­egy is es­sen­tially the pro­mo­tion of qual­ity growth and in­fra­struc­ture, a qual­ity in­vest­ment scheme, and main­tain­ing a lib­eral in­ter­na­tional or­der,” the aca­demic said.

He added that with the US re­luc­tant to en­gage with the re­gion, Ja­pan can­not stay silent any longer but must ad­dress lo­cal con­cerns. Oth­er­wise, China will con­tinue to ex­ert its eco­nomic dom­i­nance.

“Even though the BRI and In­doPa­cific strat­egy are com­pet­i­tive, there are ar­eas where we can col­lab­o­rate,” Jimbo said.

“If Ja­pan and China can co­op­er­ate on a scheme here in Thai­land, they can do it else­where, too,” he said.

China’s BRI of­ten places a bur­den on the re­cip­i­ent coun­tries and plays to Beijing’s ad­van­tages while ig­nor­ing lib­eral val­ues, he added.

Photo: toky­ofoun­da­tion.org

Ken Jimbo.

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