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I am delighted to introduce Euro Asia Security Forum’s first guest post by Jie Sheng Li, researcher in international development.
The UK released the much-awaited 2015 National Security Strategy (NSS) and the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) on 23 November 2015. A range of commentators heaved a sigh of relief as the document and the Prime Minister indicated a huge investment in military equipment, especially Maritime Patrol Aircraft. The review was, however, not just centred on military and defence policy, but indicating the UK’s foreign policy approach. This article aims to summarise the UK’s approach towards the Asia-Pacific as statement in the review and what it might indicate for the global arena.
It is commonly noted that the UK is no longer a military hard power player in the Asia-Pacific region especially since the mid-1990s. The UK instead has focused on its economic efforts to retain its influence in this region. The 2015 NSS and SDSR gave such an indication in the early paragraph 2.13, which stated “We are actively promoting closer relationships across the Asia-Pacific region.” It continued by stating the UK will form deeper relationships with emerging market economies such as China and India. This has already happened in the past decade or decades with UK exports to China expanding by 84% between 2010 and 2014. This culminated with the state visit of President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Modi in 2015. These examples indicate how the UK would use its economic power to maintain relations with Asia-Pacific giants.
A second and related means noted in the document was to use diplomatic means to assert power in the Asia-Pacific. The document states that a possible national security threat could be competition over historical territorial claims (paragraph 3.24). The UK government thus has pledged to strengthen cooperation with the range of countries in the region. The document devoted a section to the Asia-Pacific, starting off saying that the UK would support Japan’s bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. This is of course welcome given Japan’s prominence in the global political arena and its strength for example as a G8 (http://www.cfr.org/international-organizations-and-alliances/group-eight-g8-industrialized-nations/p10647 ) member. Such a support, however, may bring stiff opposition from China due to its historical differences with Japan (http://www.lowyinstitute.org/issues/china-japan-relations) and similarly, South Korea (http://thediplomat.com/tag/japan-south-korea-relations/). The rest of the section again states how the UK will strengthen relations by forging economic agreements, particularly with India and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The 2015 NSS and SDSR also stated that the UK would heavily engage with the multilateral system. This might in turn aid with the stability and development of Asia-Pacific countries. It also pledged to work with the International Financial Institutions and pledged to reform them where necessary. The UK, unlike the US, further joined the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), indicating its interest to work with a new financial order (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-signs-founding-articles-of-agreement-of-the-asian-infrastructure-investment-bank ). While such moves may be welcomed, the UK’s ultimate aim is to maintain the capitalist-centred, neoliberal, rule-based world order. The UK’s efforts thus may create adverse not positive impact on south Asian countries.
A further means of approaching or influencing Asia-Pacific means is through soft power tools. The document noted that the UK would use the BBC to spread UK values and ideas globally. It pledged to invest “£85 million each year by 2017/18” in BBC services to improve its reach (paragraph 5.17). It has further planned to fund a BBC radio service that reaches into North Korea (http://www.northkoreatech.org/2015/11/28/bbc-confirms-plans-to-launch-north-korea-radio-service/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter ). Another more prominent tool is the UK’s development aid, which has risen since 2010. The report pledged to meet the UN 0.7% of GDP target and also spend 50% of UK aid in conflict-affected countries. Aid will be a prominent tool in curbing global instability. This is again welcomed, though DFID has little projects in conflict-affected states such as Cambodia and Laos (see DFID’s development tracker http://devtracker.dfid.gov.uk/location/country/ ). It remains to been seen where this shift of aid will head towards.
The above show that the UK will be using its non-military tools to maintain its presence and influence the Asia-Pacific region. This is however not to say the UK will not exert military power over there. As the review noted, the UK is still a member of the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) and still maintains personnel in the logistic depot in Singapore and the Integrated Air Defence System in Malaysia. The review also noted that the UK continues to have a Gurkha garrison in Brunei, although it hardly exercises with regional armed forces. The UK, despite its smaller armed forces, still values the Asia-Pacific and has even established a liaison officer with the US Pacific Fleet and Japanese forces (http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=84884 ). The UK, despite its economic conditions and the geographical distance, should still maintain defence engagement with Asia-Pacific countries as unknown events may threaten UK interests there.(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/11773169/Britain-will-double-personnel-in-Far-East-war-games-David-Cameron-says.html).
This article has shown the UK’s approach to the Asia-Pacific as noted in the 2015 NSS and SDSR. It has shown that the UK will engage and influence the region mainly through economic, political and development means. It has indicated the shortcomings to the various pledges. Despite the lack of military presence, the UK will still however maintain its personnel presence in the Asia-Pacific in the long term. The NSS and SDSR has presented a holistic blueprint for UK engagement with the Asia-Pacific. It remains to be seen it there will be the resources to carry it through and the political will.
This is a guest post by Jie Sheng Li, researcher in international development. Comments welcome!
A tough assessment worth reading.
Printer-friendly version here.
This article was written by a serving military officer from a NATO member state. The views expressed in this article are his own and do not reflect the position of any organisation or government.
Britain is not under attack, but its place in the world is under fire. The semi-official Chinese Global Times has denigrated the United Kingdom as ‘an old declining empire’ which engages in ‘eccentric acts it takes to hide [its] embarrassment’. The Russians are brazenly flying bombers close enough to its airspace that the Royal Air Force has to scramble fighter aircraft to deal with them once a month, prompting the Scottish National Party to claim that the North Sea is now defended by ‘fishing vessels and social media’. British commentators…
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The author notes how fast the cooperative relationship has deepened, but how little known it remains outside a small circle of experts. Tsuruoka is concerned that is awareness remains low, both parties stand to lose out on a chance of really substantive gains. To counter this, he sets out some ideas on its potential and areas of mutual benefit. With apologies for shortcomings in my Japanese language comprehension, a summary follows.
Although networks for cooperation have expanded, expectations are limited by the fact that neither side expects Europe to play a direct military role in Asian security. From Japan’s point of view, Defence Diplomacy and Europe’s consistent support for the maintenance of international rules-based order is seen as important, especially in terms of maritime freedom of movement. As well as such relations with European states, Tsuruoka would like to see relations strengthened with EU defence institutions such as the EU Military Committee and the EU Military Staff. He suggests Japan (which shares European values and interests) would be a good partner in extending conflict prevention activity and action to cope with the effects of a military conflict in the region.
Cooperation should also be pursued outside the Asian region, such as in the Middle East and Africa. Other fields like cyber and space and especially joint development of hardware offer a new frontier. Interoperability is key, and the ‘soft’ side is as important as the hard side here, so there’s a need to work more intimately on concepts, terminology and plans in order to make it possible to understand one-other’s decision making processes and ways of working. More joint training is suggested.
Compared to the USA, the scale of capability and the estimate of what is possible are similar between Japan and European nations such as the UK, France and Germany, who have much to learn from one another.
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, left, and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, second left, join hands with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, seond right, and Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani during a Japan-France two-plus-two meeting in Tokyo, Friday, March 13, 2015. Japan and France signed an arms transfer agreement Friday, paving the way for developing drones and other unmanned equipment together as Japan seeks to play a greater military role internationally. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara,pool) The Associated Press
Junichi Nishiyama, Director of the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies as the dinner speaker
Thursday, 19 March at 19:00 – 22:00
The Policy Dinner Club is proud to announce that its next speaker will be Junichi Nishiyama, who will speak about current trends in the UK-Japan defense relationship, while touching upon possible future cooperation in defense industry and space technology. A dinner discussion will then ensue on the topic offered.
The relationship between the UK and Japan has begun to grow rather quickly over the past 10 years, and the recent 2+2 (foreign and defense ministers meeting) in London this January saw a number of future defense and security agreements made. Among these include defense cooperation in industry, cyber and space.
Of these, the latter has quickly grown in importance as a facet of national security. Meanwhile, there has been a steady decline in UK defense research and development, coupled…
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The Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond gave a speech on the UK in Asia Pacific at the S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore.
The full text of the speech can be read here.
Here are a couple of extracts:
Our partnerships in Asia rest on three pillars:
strong people-to-people links and deep bilateral relationships across the Asia Pacific region;
a shared vision of free trade and economic openness; and
common recognition of our responsibilities to maintain the rules-based international system which protects our shared interests.
The UK has an important stake in Asian security…As a nuclear power with one of the largest defence budgets in the world and membership of the P5 and United Nations and of NATO;…and as a trading nation, conscious that £3 trillion worth of trade passes through the South China Sea each year; Britain is also a party, alongside Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand to the Five Powers Defence Arrangements – still the only formal multilateral defence arrangements in South East Asia. That means we are ready and able to mobilise in support of Asia Pacific allies friends and partners…
There is a lot of thought going into the need for Europe to have a grand strategy. Some of it is very good (link). Here is a simple suggestion:
A: What do Europeans want? Safety and prosperity.
B: Europe’s only real security threat? Russia. The main driver of global prosperity? Asia, centred on China.
C: So Europe should (i) partner with China on trade to build a strategic hedge against Russia, and (ii) partner with Indo-Pacific powers to insure against dependence on China.
What would that look like?
(i) Partner with China to balance Russia. China is countering the US Pivot with its two silk roads (link, link), and cooperating with this plan represents a golden opportunity for Europe to kill two birds with one stone. First, it offers a way to lock in trade interdependence with China. Second, it offers a basis for strategic cooperation that will create a balance against Europe’s only major security threat – Russia. So Europe should pour diplomatic, economic resources into partnering with China to establish the silk road around Russia and to develop market and strategic opportunities in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East (link here for ideas). After all, since the whole purpose of the silk route is to connect China and Europe, this is the most natural basis for our common interest. The fact that it offers a chance to drive a wedge between China and Russia is a bonus in terms of European security (link).
(ii) Partner with Indo-Pacific powers to encourage peaceful growth in the region, and to insure against the risk of an all-powerful China becoming a threat to regional peace and global prosperity. While Europe wants a peaceful and prosperous relationship with China, it would not be in Europe’s longer term interests to see China turn East and South East Asia into a Sino-centric block. European prosperity is increasingly dependent on on the health not just of China’s economy, but of the economies of the whole Asian region. Currently the most likely source of conflict – and threat to continued prosperity – in Asia is rivalry in the maritime sphere. A quadrilateral alliance (made up of the United States, Japan, Australia and India) is already taking shape to prevent Chinese naval hegemony at sea. It helps that these countries broadly share the same set of values as Europe. If China’s neighbours continue to feel intimidated, then this alliance will be supported by the Philippines, Vietnam, and Indonesia. No matter how far and how fast China rises, it would be futile to oppose such a coalition. If European diplomacy, technology and naval forces are put in the service of this coalition to support freedom of navigation and uphold UNCLOS then it will support the international order and prosperity in Asia, and provide a hedge against the possibility that China might be tempted to do anything that threatens global free trade and prosperity. Europe’s message to China should be ‘we welcome your return to great power status and want to trade with you, but we stand by the rules based order of international relations, and we will pay the price to uphold it’.