U.S.-China: The View from Australia

One curious aspect of the Stateside discussion of the U.S.-China relationship is how rarely it takes into consideration how things look from the perspective of our friends and allies in the neighborhood. So we hear about the need to balance, hedge and integrate in order to maintain regional stability, but often our friends in the region — Australia, Japan and South Korea, in particular — are portrayed as mere pawns on our chess board, without real concerns and interests of their own. That’s particularly shortsighted at a time when Japan is actively seeking to recalibrate its foreign policy posture, and […]

What’s in a Name, IR Edition

How many people out of the 6 billion who now populate planet earth do you think consider “the naming of the body of water between the Koreas and Japan” a “contentious issue”? It’s impossible to say for sure, but it’s a safe bet that it tops out at about 49 million, and I’d wager it’s significantly less than that. Nevertheless, the Northeast Asian History Foundation has historical maps in hand to support Korea’s claim, made to the Ninth Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names in 2007, that what is now called the Sea of Japan should instead be called […]

The last two weeks have seen a mixed message from Beijing regarding U.S.-Chinese military ties. The ambiguous signals are indicative of China’s continuing fixation on Taiwan and its uncertainty regarding its place among world powers. In January, the U.S. moved forward on a long-delayed, $6.4 billion arms deal for Taiwan that includes assault helicopters, surface-to-air missiles and mine-hunting vessels. The deal had initially been approved by the Bush administration in 2008, but the new administration under President Barack Obama was slow to issue the individual contracts necessary to provide the weapons. Under the terms of the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, […]

India-Pakistan Peace Talks Better Taken in Doses

With both Indian and Pakistani media sources reporting — and largely supporting — renewed hope for the re-engagement of formal talks between the two nations, panelists at a recent Asia Society talk, “India and Pakistan: Back from the Brink?” agreed that a unique window of opportunity to rev up the historically stalled negotiations now exists — and must be seized. Dr. Adil Najam told event attendees that the time is now ripe, but that relations could soon sour if not taken advantage of. Najam, a professor in international relations at Boston University, said the key to successful, substantive talks will […]

Indian Tribe’s Supporters Liken Battle to ‘Avatar’

Human rights activists are turning up the heat on British company Vedanta Resources over charges that its operations threaten the existence of India’s Dongria Kondh tribe. Cast as a “David versus Goliath” fight by the tribe and its supporters, the Vedanta story comes at a time when stakeholders continue to look for a firm definition and application of a community engagement concept known as Free, Prior, Informed Consent (FPIC), to benefit indigenous peoples around the world. Survival International has appealed to the makers of the blockbuster movie “Avatar” to help the Dongria Kondh fight off mining plans and the pollution […]

Transparency and Scrutiny in International Relations

This NY Times article on the Hatoyama government’s determination to fully expose various “secret” Cold War-era U.S.-Japan security accords seems like a timely complement to the current turbulence in U.S.-EU counterterrorism cooperation. Like the U.S.-Japan agreements, many of the U.S.-EU agreements that followed 9/11 operated either entirely covertly (black site detention centers) or else under the radar (data sharing programs), for the simple reason that they would not have withstood popular scrutiny. That kind of pragmatic trade-off, though, comes with costly deferred maintenance, as demonstrated by the Japan article. When these agreements are fully exposed and recognized, even after they’ve […]

Last week in Cape Town, South Africa, I was a keynote speaker at the massive Mining Indaba conference, the premier annual gathering of global extractive companies involved in Africa’s dominant economic sector. And the difference between the many military and aid conferences I’ve attended on Africa and this international commodities convention in Africa was telling. If you think most Americans now obsess over a “rising” China, you should know that we take a backseat to the Africans on this score. But whereas we often see China’s rise as a potential threat, Africans see it as an opportunity, and China’s “positive […]

Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Defense announced the approval of a major arms sales package for Taiwan. The $6.4 billion deal includes 114 Patriot advanced capability (PAC-3) missiles, 60 Blackhawk helicopters, and two Osprey-class mine-hunting ships, among other items. The Obama administration is still considering Taiwan’s request for the F-16 C/Ds that it wants to replace some of its aging fighters. As it has in the past, Beijing quickly expressed its indignation through multiple channels. Foreign Ministry officials denounced the arms sales as interference in China’s internal affairs and China’s official media warned that the decision would “inevitably cast […]

Serious. It’s a word you’ll hear the Japanese use again and again to describe Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, and it’s one that just as accurately describes the foreign policy challenges Japan faces. It is just a few months since the Democratic Party of Japan seized power after more than five decades of virtually uninterrupted Liberal Democratic Party control. Yet, Okada, 56, has already been forced to confront what some are calling a crisis in the U.S.-Japan relationship, follow through on the party’s pledge to withdraw from a highly symbolic but contentious refueling mission for U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, and warn […]