Top 5 ways to upgrade the U.S.-Japan alliance
November 26th, 2012
10:52 AM ET

Top 5 ways to upgrade the U.S.-Japan alliance

By James Holmes, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: James Holmes is an associate professor of strategy at the Naval War College and co-author of ‘Red Star over the Pacific. The views expressed are his alone.

Earlier this month, the news broke that Washington and Tokyo intend to review the longstanding Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation. The guidelines sketch, in broad terms, how the allies plan to respond to common challenges. Meetings will reportedly commence in early December. The two governments last revised the guidelines in 1997, with an eye toward managing crises on the Korean Peninsula. China’s rise to martial eminence has transformed the Asian order since then – leaving the transpacific alliance trailing behind new strategic realities. Here’s one guy’s list of topics for alliance managers to explore, in ascending order of importance:

5. The northern axis. While the alliance has understandably turned its attention and energies southward toward China, Tokyo and Washington should cast the occasional glance to the north. Russia has made noises about reclaiming its heritage as a Far Eastern naval power, using the Sea of Okhotsk as a platform for operations in the Pacific Ocean. Should global-warming forecasts pan out, meanwhile, navigable Arctic sea routes may open and close intermittently each year as polar ice retreats and expands. A new inland sea, however mercurial in nature, would transform Eurasian geopolitics. These developments warrant attention to such geographic features as the Bering Strait, the entryway from the Pacific to the Arctic, and to the Aleutian and Kuril island chains, which are well positioned to regulate access to the two oceans.

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Topics: Asia • China • East Asia • Japan • Military
10 foreign policy priorities for Obama
November 8th, 2012
02:35 PM ET

10 foreign policy priorities for Obama

Barack Obama has won reelection as America’s president. But while the economy – and avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff – will inevitably take up much of his time, there are numerous foreign policy challenges facing the next administration. GPS asked 10 leading foreign policy analysts to name 10 things that Obama should focus on next. The views expressed are, of course, the authors' own.

Keep Arab Spring on track

By Kenneth Roth

Kenneth Roth is executive director of Human Rights Watch.

The biggest human rights challenge facing President Obama in his second term is finding ways to help keep on track the reform agenda that launched the Arab Spring. Most important is ending the horrible slaughter of civilians in Syria. Obama should stop pretending that Russia’s and China’s obstructionism absolves the U.S. of responsibility to continue ratcheting up pressure to stop the atrocities.

In Egypt, the regional trendsetter, Obama has properly said he respects the election that brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power, but now he should press the government, like all others, to respect basic rights, including of women and minorities. In Libya, Obama should stop treating the country as a “mission accomplished” and actively help elected authorities build the rule of law. And Obama should keep his promise to “promote reform across the region” and stop the discrediting double standard of making exceptions for U.S. allies, whether friendly monarchs or Israel.

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Topics: 2012 Election • Afghanistan • Africa • Arab Spring • Asia • Barack Obama • China • Conflict • Cuba • East Asia • Economy • Iran • United States
Don’t get hung up on the renminbi
August 29th, 2012
12:12 PM ET

Don’t get hung up on the renminbi

By Michael Pettis, CEIP

Editor’s note: Michael Pettis is a nonresident senior associate on the Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where this piece originally appeared. The views expressed are his own.

China urgently needs to rebalance its economy, both to avoid the risk of a domestic banking crisis and to reduce its excessive claim on global demand. How it chooses to do so, however, should not be constrained by too much focus on the value of the renminbi. The exchange rate is only one of the mechanisms, and not even the most important, that will determine the price of Chinese goods abroad.

It is domestic politics that will determine the form in which the rebalancing takes place, but as long as rebalancing occurs, the world should not overly emphasize the role of the currency.

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Topics: China • East Asia • Economy
No, fear of China isn’t what’s driving U.S. policy in Asia
July 17th, 2012
11:46 AM ET

No, fear of China isn’t what’s driving U.S. policy in Asia

Editor’s note: Brad Glosserman is executive director of Pacific Forum CSIS, a Honolulu-based think tank. The views expressed are solely those of the author.

By Brad Glosserman, Special to CNN

Frequently dismissed as a talk shop, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) is in fact one of the key tests of the U.S. commitment to “rebalance” to Asia. The 27-member security forum may be best known for its after-dinner entertainment – most famously then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s schmaltzy country and western duet with Japanese counterpart Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka – but the readiness of America’s most senior diplomats to travel halfway round the globe to attend the meet is seen as a critical indicator of Washington’s readiness to engage the world’s most dynamic region on its own terms.

Fortunately, the ARF has begun to assume a significance commensurate with its status as the Asia-Pacific’s only institutionalized security forum. Two years ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told delegates that the United States had a stake in freedom of navigation in the region, called for the peaceful resolution of territorial disputes that dot the South China Sea, and offered U.S. services as a mediator. That statement infuriated Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, who left the meeting and returned to imperiously point out that “China is a big country…and other countries are small countries and that is just a fact.” Clinton’s speech, and U.S. foreign policy more generally, was dismissed most charitably as a distraction – and more ominously as dangerous interference – in regional affairs. (The idea that the U.S. was responding to regional entreaties is considered laughable.)

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Topics: Asia • China • East Asia • United States
How China could counter Obama's Asia 'pivot'
Chinese President Hu Jintao gestures the way forward for visiting U.S. President Barack Obama in Beijing in November of 2009.
April 5th, 2012
12:00 PM ET

How China could counter Obama's Asia 'pivot'

Editor's Note: Robert E. Kelly is a Senior Analyst at Wikistrat and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and Diplomacy at Pusan National University, South Korea. A longer version of this essay may be found at his website, Asian Security Blog.

By Robert E. Kelly - Special to CNN

For all the talk about how the US might ‘pivot’ to Asia, there is little Western discussion of how China might respond to its semi-encirclement. Here are five possibilities:

1. China might pull South Korea into its orbit

China’s regional problem is that no one really trusts it. Its allies are weak – North Korea and Myanmar. The best way to head-off encirclement is to break the ring with some decent allies. Nasty, dependent dictatorships are not enough. South Korea is a central link in any semi-containment ring around China, but one where China has a lot of leverage. FULL POST

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Topics: Asia • China • East Asia • Foreign Policy • Military • Strategy • United States
Listen Up, America! China's rise is inevitable
February 3rd, 2012
06:55 PM ET

Listen Up, America! China's rise is inevitable

Editor's Note: Every week, the Global Public Square brings you some must-read editorials from around the world addressed to America and Americans. The series is called Listen up, America!

U.S. troops are out of Iraq, and U.S.-led combat operations in Afghanistan could wind down by the end of next year. At the same time, the U.S. has pivoted its attention to the Pacific and to an ascendant China. This has not gone unnoticed by the nations in the region.

China – “It is natural to see the US, which is used to being No.1 in the world, feel uncomfortable and even uneasy about China's rise,” says an editorial in the Global Times, a newspaper owned by the country's communist party.

“But they should first realize that the rise of China is inevitable as long as China can maintain a peaceful development environment. In this sense, the most effective way for the US to contain its development is to damage the peaceful environment in China and bring it into chaos.”

China – "The Philippines has signaled during a recent bilateral defense dialogue that it would expand the US military presence on its soil," says another editorial in the Global Times, adding, "China must respond to this move."

"The Philippines is a suitable target to impose such a punishment. A reasonable yet powerful enough sanction can be considered. It should show China's neighboring area that balancing China by siding with the US is not a good choice."

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Topics: Asia • China • East Asia • Listen up!
January 29th, 2012
09:10 PM ET

Zakaria: The end of an era for Japan

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

Wherever you are in the world, you've probably used or coveted some Japanese product - a Honda four-wheeler; a Toyota Prius, a Sony, a Panasonic TV, a Nikon camera. Since the 1950s, Japan's exports have flooded the world and fueled an economic miracle at home, making that country one of the wealthiest in the world. Well, this week marks a turning point - one of the world's great export engines has run out of gas.

What in the world is going on?

For the first time in 31 years, Japan has recorded a trade deficit. In simple terms, that means Japan imported more than it exported last year. Now this is not that unusual for some rich countries: the U.S. has had a trade deficit since 1975, and yet we've grown. But the U.S. economy is not built on exports. Japan's economic rise on the other hand, has been almost entirely powered by exports.

So what has changed in Japan? FULL POST

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Topics: East Asia • Economy • From Fareed • Japan • What in the World?
January 24th, 2012
10:08 AM ET

Concrete balls to bash Indonesian freeloaders

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

We all know there are no free lunches, but what about free rides?

Well, in Indonesia, thrill seekers and free loaders alike travel into Jakarta by riding on top of trains. And the authorities have been trying to curb the train-surfing scourge for decades.

Now they seem to have come up with a concrete solution. I mean that literally. The state-run rail system has installed concrete balls about the size of grapefruits above the rail tracks.

They call them goal "bola bola" or "goal balls," and the goal is to show fare beaters that it doesn't pay to be cheap.

But there's already been a glitch. It turns out officials made the chains too short leaving a gap of about 16 inches between the balls and the passing trains. They say they'll get on the ball soon.

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Topics: East Asia • Governance • GPS Show • Odd
10 strategic issues with Obama's East Asia "pivot"
A paramilitary policeman guards in front of an emblem of the Communist Party of China at Tiananmen Square on June 28, 2011 in Beijing, China. (Getty Images)
January 15th, 2012
06:14 PM ET

10 strategic issues with Obama's East Asia "pivot"

Editor’s Note: The following piece, exclusive to GPS, comes from Wikistrat, the world's first massively multiplayer online consultancy.  It leverages a global network of subject-matter experts via a crowd-sourcing methodology to provide unique insights.

The Obama Administration recently released a military strategic guidance document, which calls for a strategic “pivot” from the Middle East to East Asia. This bold move replaces President George W. Bush’s “long war” against violent Islamic extremism with a new, ongoing effort to shape China’s military rise.

What are the strategic, military trade-offs of this historic shift? Wikistrat, the world’s first massively multiplayer online consultancy, recently tapped its global network of several hundred analysts to ponder this question. This online network offers a uniquely powerful and unprecedented strategic consulting service: the Internet's only central intelligence exchange for strategic analysis and forecasting, delivered - for the first time - in a real-time, interactive platform. Exclusive to GPS, here are Wikistrat’s top ten strategic, military issues to bear in mind as this “pivot” unfolds:

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Topics: East Asia • Military • Strategy • United States
November 18th, 2011
10:45 AM ET

U.S. leadership approval ratings top China's in Asia

By Peter Cynkar, Gallup.com

With U.S. President Barack Obama announcing that the U.S. will expand its military presence in Asia by deploying 2,500 Marines to Australia, Gallup surveys showcase the wide range of opinions of U.S. leadership in the region. A median of 44% approve of U.S. leadership in nine countries that are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) or the East Asia Summit (EAS) group. As many as 68% approve in Cambodia, but as few as 16% approve in India, with sizable minorities in all countries not offering an opinion either way.

Approval of US leadership in Asian countries

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Topics: China • East Asia • Poll • United States
November 16th, 2011
06:39 PM ET

America's clever base move in Australia

Editor's Note: Raoul Heinrichs is Sir Arthur Tange Scholar at the Strategic and Defense Studies Centre, ANU, an editor at the Lowy Institute for International Policy, and Deputy Editor of Pnyx. This is an extended version of an article published by the Lowy Interpreter. This piece is reprinted with the permission of The Diplomat.

By Raoul HeinrichsThe Diplomat

U.S. President Barack Obama’s sheen may have worn off somewhat in the United States, but not in Australia. Yet amid the handshaking and backslapping, the photo opportunities and exultations of shared values, interests and history, it’s easy to overlook the fact that Obama’s trip “down under” is driven by cold strategic logic: to sell Australians on accepting a greater burden on behalf of their alliance with the United States.

That process has begun with a major enhancement of military cooperation between the two countries, to be concentrated in Australia’s North West. The arrangement grants the U.S. military greater access to Australian bases, particularly airfields, as well as providing for more extensive training, ship visits and exercises, and the forward deployment of a small detachment of U.S. Marines. It also covers the prepositioning of materiel – fuel, ammunition and spare parts – creating the foundations of a latent staging point for the U.S. military in the Indian Ocean. FULL POST

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Topics: Australia • East Asia • Military • United States
November 8th, 2011
12:33 PM ET

Looking up in Myanmar?

Editor's Note: Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith, both professors of politics at NYU, are the authors of The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics

By Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith - Special to CNN

Things are looking better in Myanmar. With a shift to civilian rule, its new leader Thein Sein is implementing reforms and releasing political prisoners. Unfortunately for the Burmese people, these changes are likely to be transitory.

After nearly 50 years of military rule, Myanmar held elections in November 2010. These were largely a sham as the military reinvented itself as the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and won with over 75 percent of the vote. Yet policy has shifted with relaxation of media restrictions and reform of tax and property laws. FULL POST

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