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Kerry Abe

Minefields in Obama’s trip to Asia

By Fraser Cameron, Director

11 February 2014

This week John Kerry embarks on another visit to Asia seeking to remind everyone that the US pivot is still on track. In late April Barack Obama will visit Asia - Japan, Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines. China is not on the list as Obama will pay a separate visit there later in the year.

Kerry will discuss political, security and economic issues in his trip. He will no doubt face questions about TPP. The next round of negotiations is scheduled for later this month but there are increasing doubts as to whether TPP can be completed in a reasonable timeframe given the inability of the Obama administration to secure fast track authority from Congress. If the President cannot secure the necessary support in Washington it is unlikely that Prime Minister Abe will risk political capital in trying to push for internal reforms in Japan.

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Ayrault, Li

France-China Relations: From ‘Special’ to ‘Strategic’?

By Wei Shen

28 January 2014

France occupies a special position in China’s foreign policy, due to two important historical events. First, former Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders like Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping and Chen Yi, were among the 4,000 young Chinese who studied in France from 1912 to 1927. This page of history has left a strong hallmark on the CCP. Second, fifty years ago, amid the tension of the Cold War, France was the first major power in the West to have full diplomatic relations with China.

In the past five decades, the bilateral relationship has grown fast with joint statements on ‘comprehensive partnership’ in 1997 and ‘strategic partnership’ in 2004, but not without experiencing ups and downs. Is France still the special partner for China as it once was? The 50th anniversary provides both countries a good occasion to reflect and renew Sino-France relations in a changing global order.

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Japan's 'Strategic Diplomacy': Leveraging on ASEAN in 2014

By Kei Koga

2 January 2014

The recent ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit in Tokyo illustrates Japan’s 2013 ‘Strategic Diplomacy’ towards ASEAN. There are also several challenges to sustaining this momentum in Japan-ASEAN relations as we enter the new year.


JAPAN AND ASEAN commemorated 40 years of friendship and cooperation with a Summit Meeting in Tokyo on 14 December 2013, proclaiming in their joint commitment to work “hand in hand, facing regional and global challenges”. Given the current heightened political tension between China and Japan following Beijing’s announcement of its new East China Sea Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ), the Summit was seen as part of Japan’s pursuit of its ‘Strategic Diplomacy’ toward ASEAN in balancing China’s increasing influence in East Asia.

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China North Korea

Fire on the City Gate: Why China Keeps North Korea Close

By International Crisis Group

11 December 2013

China tolerates the nuclear ambitions of North Korea (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, DPRK) for now because its interests in the neighbourhood are much wider and more complex than this single issue. Beijing and the West often work toward their shared goal of a nuclear-free Korean peninsula with contradictory approaches that reflect their different priorities. The West uses diplomatic isolation, economic sanctions and extended deterrence to pressure Pyongyang to give up its nuclear program. Many Western policymakers believe the DPRK will denuclearise if sufficient costs are imposed and that Beijing holds the keys because the North is economically dependent on it. But China is reluctant to take any coercive action that might destabilise the regime and change a delicate geopolitical balance. It instead continues with diplomatic engagement and economic cooperation as the instruments it hopes will cause the leadership to denuclearise in the indeterminate future.

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The East China Sea ADIZ: New Flashpoint in Regional Maritime Security

By Sukjoon Yoon

2 December 2013

Regional maritime territorial disputes have expanded beyond the surface of the seas into the airspace above them, marking a significant enlargement of the theatre of conflict. Why has China established the East China Sea (ECS) Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ)?


ON 23 NOVEMBER 2013 China unexpectedly declared the East China Sea Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ), defining it to include the Chinese Exclusive Economic Zone but also the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. Within this zone, which is 130km from Japanese territory at its closest point, China requires the ready identification, location, and control of all civil and military aircraft from any nation, whether over land or sea.

This strikingly assertive measure will likely impact regional maritime security calculations in the years ahead. The Chinese move has been immediately defied by the United States, South Korea and Japan with military overflights through the ADIZ without notifying China while Japanese civilian airlines, initially complying, were told to ignore the new Chinese flight rules. These have so far provoked only muted response from Beijing.

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EU-Asia Relations

EU-Asia Relations: A New Start?

By Fraser Cameron, Director

27 November 2013

The EU is finally paying more attention to Asia. After some years of introspection as it focused on the financial crisis, and following the US pivot to Asia, there has been a flurry of visits by EU leaders to Asia seeking to deepen relations both with regional actors such as ASEAN and individual countries. The EU is playing a more active role not only in the trade sphere, with FTAs signed with Korea and Singapore, but also in non-traditional areas of security including climate change, maritime security, terrorism and cyber security.

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China's FP

China’s Foreign Policy under the New Leadership – More Continuity than Change

By Fraser Cameron, Director

15 November 2013

A year after the leadership changes in China it is timely to assess whether the new men at the helm (there are no women) will seek to change China’s traditionally cautious foreign policy. For many years China followed Deng Xiaoping’s dictum about promoting prosperity while avoiding conflict. But in the past three years China has been perceived as becoming more assertive, especially in its own neighbourhood. Disputes have flared up with Japan and the Philippines while there has been renewed tension with India over unresolved border claims. This has caused disquiet with many countries wondering about Chinese aims in the Asia-Pacific. As President, Xi Jinping has said little about foreign policy although China faces a number of serious problems with its Asian neighbours in the East and South China Seas, issues that touch on relations with the United States (US). The initial overseas visits of President Xi and Premier Li would seem to indicate a desire to shore up China’s position with the leading powers and resource-rich countries.

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Mahinda Rajapaksa

Sri Lanka’s Potemkin Peace: Democracy Under Fire

By International Crisis Group

13 November 2013

Sri Lanka’s ethnically-exclusive regime continues to close political space and consolidate its power. Recent moves that create a perception of progress have not weakened the power of the president, his family or the military or brought reconciliation, ended human rights abuses or reduced impunity. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) won a landslide victory in September’s long-awaited northern provincial council elections. Yet, President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s administration is reluctant to allow devolution to begin, preferring to maintain de facto military rule in the north. It faces increasing social and communal pressures elsewhere, too. Journalists, human rights defenders and critics of the government are threatened and censored. With opposition parties weak and fragmented, continued international pressure and action are essential to stem the authoritarian turn and erosion of rule of law, realise the devolution of power promised in the constitution and start a credible investigation of alleged war crimes by government forces and the Tamil Tigers (LTTE).

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EU Security

The EU in Asian Security - Too Much for Beijing, Not Enough for Washington

By Axel Berkofsky

11 November 2013

Beijing complains that Europe is already ‘interfering’ too much in China’s internal affairs endorsing US-driven containment policies, while Washington wants Europe to do more. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t for Brussels policymakers in Asian security, it seems. Far from it EU policymakers counter insisting that Brussels is a ‘soft power’ making ‘soft power’ contributions to the region’s peace and stability. While not producing the same front-page newspaper coverage as e.g. US-Korean military maneuvers or the deployment of the jointly developed US-Japan missile defense system, the Union’s development aid and the expansion of trade and business ties with Asia have been promoting Asian peace and stability over decades, EU policymakers typically explain.

Too Soft, Says Washington

European ‘soft power’ only, however, is not good enough as far as Washington is concerned. “From an EU perspective it may be desirable to develop a more direct presence in the Asia Pacific to help ensure that the US remain committed to the alliance’s security interests in other regions that are traditionally perceived as more vital to European security”, the US scholars Erickson and Strange argue.

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Smog Harbin

From smog to blue sky? China’s latest plan to combat air pollution

By Julia Marie Ewert

29 October 2013

China’s latest action plan against air pollution contains many promising elements. However, clearer provisions on follow-up measures and consequences in case of non-compliance are needed. A no stick but just carrot-approach is ill-suited given the urgency of the situation. Immediate changes are required and external players such as the EU can only help with long-term transformation.

It was during the run-up to the 2008 Olympics that Beijing’s air pollution drew worldwide media attention for the first time. Since then, reports about pollution in Chinese cities have become commonplace. The most recent case was that of Harbin in the North East of China. Levels of the PM2.5 reached 500 on 21 October 2013, the highest possible level on the scale. Visibility dropped to less than 10 meters in part of the city. Schools and the airport remained closed due to the smog for three days in a row. According to the WHO’s 2005 Air Quality Guidelines, the 24-hour average of PM2.5 concentration should not exceed 25 micrograms per cubic metre.

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