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Asia-Pacific security faces new challenges

( Source: China Military  )         2017-January-9 17:43

BEIJING, Jan. 9 (ChinaMil) -- Peace and development are the general trend and people's common aspiration in the Asia-Pacific region.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said in his 2017 New Year speech that "We Chinese not only aspire for good living for ourselves, but also hope people in other countries of the world lead a descent life."

Those China-proposed concepts and Chinese practices, including the "Human Community of Shared Destiny", "Right Outlook on Justice and Profits", "Comprehensive Security Outlook", "Amity, Sincerity, Mutual Benefit and Inclusiveness for Win-win Cooperation", and "Joint Construction and Sharing" and so on, are bound to push Asia Pacific and the world at large in the direction of peace, stability and prosperity.

In the meantime, we need to see that there remain many uncertainties and instabilities in the Asia Pacific, and we should be mentally prepared for and take precautions against them.

"Asia-Pacific rebalancing" may continue in changed outlook

Since the Obama administration kicked off the "Asia-Pacific rebalancing" strategy in 2011, the Asia-Pacific security situation has seen many changes due to its passive effects.

Donald Trump never seemed hopeful throughout the US presidential election campaign, but he ended up being the black swan. Although this was mainly because of domestic factors, it in a way reflected that the US is reflecting on its foreign policies too.

After Trump became president-elect, he made many remarks that went counter to Obama's policies, denoting that America's foreign policy may go through substantial adjustment.

For instance, Trump made it clear that he would give up the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) after he took office, claimed to lift the sanction against Russia that has been on for more than two years, and challenged Washington's consistent stance on the "One China" principle.

Trump has never been in public office, and he doesn't fully understand sensitive issues in international relations. The list of candidates for his security and diplomatic team is highly conservative because it is mostly filled by rich white men and retired veterans. And Trump's governing concept shows a strong inclination toward neo-isolationism.

Trump's campaign slogans such as "America first", "America No.1" and "Make America Great Again" foreboded the possibility of the US providing fewer public products in the world, while his call for "increasing the defense budget", "expanding the military" and "securing peace with strength" predicted that it might step up military interferences in regional hotspot issues.

There are various guesses as to how Trump will deal with the Asia-Pacific security issue, and some held that the "Asia-Pacific rebalancing" strategy may continue in a changed outlook.

Tension in Northeast Asia may be more complicated

Northeast Asia has many big countries, a range of conflicts cluster, and it remains obvious legacy from the Cold War. It is of vital importance for Asia-Pacific security, and two trends in it are worth close attention in the new year.

Japan obviously works harder to send its troops overseas and more actively interferes in regional security affairs.

After Shinzo Abe came into power, the Abe authority has constantly broken the "exclusively defensive" guideline that Japan has observed for decades, and given up the "self-restricting" path of military development.

The new security bills passed in September 2015 granted Japan's Self Defense Forces (JSDF) to exercise the right to collective self-defense and send troops overseas, and the new Guidelines for Japan-US Defense Cooperation covered an ever larger scope.

The US-Japan alliance is becoming a de facto global military alliance, and the change in its function will impose major impacts on regional and international security.

Situation on the Korean Peninsula remains tense with the possibility of conflicts.

In 2016, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) had two nuclear tests and tens of missiles tests, and acted faster in combining nuclear bomb with missile. If it continues at this space, both DPRK's strategic strike capability and America's "strategic forbearance" may reach the critical point.

The US decided to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in ROK and wanted to take the Korean Peninsula as a pivot in its Asia-Pacific missile defense system, which seriously harmed China's and Russia's strategic interests and disrupted regional peace and stability.

South China Sea situation improves but still with interferences

In July 2016, an award was given on the so-called South China Sea arbitration case initiated by the former Philippine government, which tried to comprehensively deny and encroach upon China's sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea.

In face of this political provocation disguised under the cloak of law, the Chinese government fought back resolutely. But after Manila ushered in a new president, the South China Sea situation saw positive changes.

The Philippine President Duterte paid a state visit to China, where he agreed to return to the path of dialogue and consultation to properly address the South China Sea issue, which complied with the fundamental interests of both countries and was conducive to regional peace and stability.

Meanwhile, the dialogue and consultations between China and certain ASEAN member states made progress.

At the ASEAN-China Summit held in September 2016, all parties vowed to implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea comprehensively and effectively, and to take concrete steps to reach the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea at an early date on the basis of consultation and agreement.

However, as the South China Sea situation showed positive signs, some out-of-the-region countries, instead of supporting the dialogue, disrupted it by making trouble constantly.

In the new year, the US may continue its military presence and activities in the South China Sea under the pretext of "freedom of navigation".

Japan may follow America's South China Sea policy, continue to meddle in the issue, hold joint military exercises or even joint patrol with the US in the region, and intensify defense cooperation with relevant claimants in the ASEAN.

These actions will make waves in the peaceful South China Sea.

"Forced-out" extremists become unstable factors

As the international community is stepping up anti-terrorist efforts, especially as the US and Russia may cooperate to some extent, the extremist organization IS will be hit hard, and their living space in Syria and Iraq will be further squeezed.

Against such a background, Syria, which used to be the destination of terrorists, may become a departure station now.

Terrorists that were drawn to Syria by extremist ideas and have been "baptized" by war there may be forced back to their home country and become unstable factors. This is worth special attention in Central Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia.

We should bear in mind that whether it's the Asia-Pacific or the world in general, change is the inevitable trend, which will bring both challenges and new opportunities.

The article is written by Senior Colonel Zhao Xiaozhuo from the Center of China-US Defense Relations of the PLA Academy of Military Sciences, and Li Tianyang from the Political Work Department of the Chinese People's Armed Police Force.



Editor :  Huang Panyue