In Asia, Trust but CYA

After signing a deal in Moscow, reportedly for the purchase of six submarines to shore up its South China Sea claims, Vietnam’s defense minister made back-to-back visits to Washington and Paris to discuss further military hardware purchases. In France, the subject of discussion was helicopters and air transport. For all the talk in Asia of regional integration, military budgets don’t seem to be suffering much. If Reagan’s famous formula for U.S.-Soviet arms talks was “Trust, but verify,” the contemporary Asian version would seem to be, “Trust, but cover your . . . back.”

After more than a year of fighting, the resumption of peace negotiations between the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was a welcome development in Mindanao, an island mired in endemic violence. But although talks have resumed in earnest, persistent structural obstacles mean that hopes for a lasting peace remain slim. The most positive development that has emerged from the latest effort is an internationalization of the process, which has now clearly moved beyond the informal and largely ineffectual mediation of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. On Sept. 15, Manila and the MILF agreed […]

KUALA LUMPUR — As Thai leaders come to terms with an ailing monarch and grapple with the headline-grabbing antics of antagonists in Cambodia, insurgents in the deep south of the country have been raising the stakes in their bid for autonomy. Casualties blamed on shootings, bombings and military raids have become an almost daily occurrence in recent months, leading Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his Malaysian counterpart, Najib Razak, to tour the troubled southern province of Narathiwat on Dec. 9. Together they urged locals to condemn the violence, while promising further talks and some degree of autonomy to the […]

TOKYO — Asia may already have an alphabet soup of regional economic and security arrangements, but Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd seems to believe there is room for at least one more. At a gathering of regional ministers, media and think tanks, Rudd argued that the region risked drifting in the face of challenges ahead. “We need to plan — we need to plan with each other, rather than against each other, as has often been the custom in times past,” he said, addressing a two-day conference, “Asia Pacific: A Community for the 21st Century,” held in Sydney beginning last […]

A little more than 10 years after the people of what is now Timor-Leste voted for independence, this small, half-island country has compressed into a few short years what many other post-colonial states have taken decades to achieve. It has been largely destroyed, achieved independence, had a political crisis, transitioned to democracy, and now appears to be heading into a period of political calm and economic growth. After the near-catastrophic events of 2006, Timor-Leste’s prospects are looking relatively positive, even if a number of important caveats apply. After roughly 300 years of Portuguese colonial neglect came to an end in […]

A Russia-India Nuclear Deal

Russia and India continue to bolster ties through a nuclear agreement.Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has stressed that nuclear cooperationbetween the two nations is only for peaceful collaboration and thatRussia does not intend to expand the nuclear club. Prime MinisterManmohan Singh was in Moscow for the leaders’ third meeting this year.

Massacre Highlights Philippines’ Clan-Based Politics

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has talked tough since grisly details emerged last week of a massacre in the Muslim-majority province of Maguindanao, vowing that “no effort will be spared to bring justice to the victims and hold the perpetrators accountable to the full limit of the law.” Arroyo later declared martial law in the province, and on Monday, Nov. 30, her press secretary assured journalists that the government is doing everything to bring the guilty parties to justice at the earliest possible time. “Even as we speak now, soldiers and policemen are conducting house-to-house searches,” said Cerge Remonde in […]