Tag Archives: Europe

Conference on Europe, Japan and Asian Security

Start: 8 Apr 2014 14:00
End: 8 Apr 2014 17:30

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan in association with the Institute for European Studies (IES), is organizing a conference on Europe, Japan and Asian Security, which will take place at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel on 8 April 2014. This joint initiative aims at promoting European-Japanese dialogue on security issues.

Participation is free of charge, but registration is required. Please register here.


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March 14, 2014 · 8:34 am

How Europe arms China

china5graphicaFollowing up on a previous post about the European contribution to the Asian arms race (and shifts in the military balance in the Asia-Pacific), readers may find this Reuters study by David Lague of interest:

The Chinese military machine’s secret to success: European engineering

This just about sums it up:

“The distance between Europe and Asia means there is ambivalence about the rapid growth of Chinese military power. From Europe, China looks like an opportunity, not a threat.”

The article points out the value of ‘dual use’ goods and their significance in undermining the strategic purpose of the EU embargo on China, imposed after the Tiananmen square crack-down in 1989.

If you liked this report, you may also like this one on how European space tech has been transferred to China too.

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Europe siding with Japan in islands dispute?

Senkaku_Diaoyu_Tiaoyu_IslandsHere is an interesting article written by James Brady on Open Asia about European attitudes towards the Japan/China contest over those islands:

Subtle but supportive: Reading Europe’s response to Japan’s Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute with China

James recons that:

“in the court of public opinion (at least, as far as it is reflected in the mainstream media), sympathy seems to lie largely with Japan”

What is interesting is that this is coming less from any legal or normative position on the dispute itself, and much more from a comparison of the domestic treatment of the issue in China and Japan. The violence seen in the public response in China has generated sympathy for Japan.

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European runners in the race for defence partnership with Vietnam

Viet AshtonFor at least the past three generations, Vietnam has been a serious noise in Asian security. You might think that throwing off the Japanese, the French and then the USA was impressive enough. With its large educated population and cohesive national culture, Vietnam then threatened to dominate the rest of continental S. E. Asia, prompting a  military intervention by neighbor and historical rival China in 1979. The war in Cambodia and the demise of its Soviet patron brought isolation, but this ended in the late 1980s, when Vietnam began to opened up again. Soon it entered ASEAN and took its place in the global economic supply chain.

When it comes to contemporary Asian security, Vietnam is again in the thick of it. Its location gives it unique  geopolitical significance with a border with China, deep port facilities and long coastline on the South China Sea (SCS). Economic growth is supplying the means for military modernization. Gas reserves give it a stake in deals with the big commercial and sovereign energy firms. Its weight in ASEAN is enough to sway other nations in the region. It is becoming the pivotal middle power in the regional balance.

As in the past, tension with China is a persistent theme, but this time Hanoi’s strategic approach is different. As Sr. Lt Gen. Nguyen Chi Vinh expressed it at the Shangri La dialogue in 2013 –

“It is clearly seen that the trend for cooperation, including the Asia-Pacific defence cooperation, takes place more vigorously than any other regions in the world. A few decades ago, the cooperation was limited to some countries, mainly bilateral ones or in some particular spheres. However, the defense cooperation has nowadays been expanded multilaterally and in various areas. Even some nations which used to face contradiction or confrontation are now moving forward to the defense cooperation more obviously. Thanks to this trend, we have made massive progress in confidence building and preventive diplomacy, which is a key factor to reduce the risks of conflicts and contribute to the maintenance of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific for more than 3 decades.”

Partnerships with others in the Asia-Pacific are very much a part of it (with the USA, Russia, India, Japan, Singapore, the Philippines and, yes, China), but Europe is also included. Hanoi’s growing network of defence cooperation and security relations promises to tell us something very interesting about Europe’s emerging role in Asian security. Here is a sample of recent evidence on the number of European nations cementing defence ties with Vietnam:










Although the EU has restricted its role in SCS security to mediation, it has  become a major partner with Vietnam in the economic sphere. Here are a couple of extracts from a very useful article “Vietnam’s strategic hedging vis-à-vis China: the roles of the European Union and Russia” :

Pressed to diversify its investments in order to prevent itself from being exploited and dominated by Chinese investors, Vietnam has been seeking more investments coming from the EU. The EU has been attributed a special role in this regard, as the total FDI inflow to Vietnam coming from the EU between 2002 and 2009 amounts to US$ 4,7 billion (as compared to US$ 649,9 million coming from China), which makes the EU the second largest external investor in Vietnam, just after the US.40 In 2011, the EU’s FDI in Vietnam was US$ 32 billion, encompassing 1,687 projects41, which amounted to more than 12% of Vietnam’s total FDI.42 This was ten times bigger that the FDI coming from China, which covered 805 projects with a total pledged investment capital of US$ 3.184 billion. This position of the EU has been reinforced in 2012, with an FDI record of US$ 1 billion.43 The EU has also remained the main provider of development aid to Vietnam.

The subtext here is that Vietnam is using investment and trade to draw Europeans into the East Asian geopolitical game:

The EU is currently Vietnam’s second trading partner, with bilateral trade amounting to US$ 24.29 billion in 2011. Vietnam’s exports to the EU have increased by 33.5% in 2011. In addition, large EU-based energy companies such as BP have been involved in oil and gas exploitation and drilling in the region. The considerable trade turnover between the European companies and the regional states, including Vietnam, is closely connected to the freedom of navigation and the stability of the SCS. This fact has urged stronger EU engagement in regional security matters, and especially into the maritime security in the SCS. Along these lines, whilst it is clear that the EU’s economic presence in the SEA is growing at a fast pace, it is also true that this circumstance has been particularly promoted by the Vietnamese authorities since it enhances the country’s capacity to address the complex challenges and pressures stemming from the rise of China.

This is a dimension of Vietnam’s broad “equidistancing” strategy (expressed by its policy on Cam Ranh bay here):

Regarding the Itar-Tass’s question about the use of Vietnam’s Cam Ranh military naval port, General Phung Quang Thanh reiterated Vietnam’s viewpoint that the country does not let any country set its military base there. The country will build a logistic service centre, managed by Vietnam, to receive trading and military vessels from other countries to come for repair or maintenance services and provide logistic – technical, relaxation, and health services for the crews, based on economic contracts signed with them.

Brussels clearly feels it is worth investing in this relationship. In June this year they launched the EU-Vietnam strategic dialogue facility to support the EU – Vietnam Partnership Cooperation Agreement (PCA) signed last year in Brussels.

“Together with a wide range of Vietnamese partners from academia, civil society and government, the facility will allow Europe and Vietnam to exchange best practices and experiences on issues of mutual interest under the PCA. It will fund policy-oriented research and studies and organize conferences, high-level meetings and trainings with European and international experts”.

So it looks like this is the deal on Euro-Asia security relations: the hard security goes bilaterally, the economic and strategic package follows up from Brussels. It could work.


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What if Europeans compete with ‘Europe’ for closer security and political links to ASEAN?

France's foreign minister Laurant Fabius sits across some flags from the ASEAN Secretary Genera, H.E. Le Luong Minh.

France’s foreign minister Laurant Fabius sits across some flags from the ASEAN Secretary General, H.E. Le Luong Minh.

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius visited Jakarta from July 31 to August 2 in an effort to build a bilateral strategic partnership with Indonesia. Fabius also visited the Secretariat of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), where he met with Secretary-General (pictured above).

Fabius is the first French Minister of Foreign Affairs to visit Indonesia in 17 years, and the speech he gave about French Policy towards Asia during his visit to the ASEAN Secretariat is worth a read. He began with a bit of history (early diplomatic contacts in the 16th century), and culture (art, bread and spring rolls, etc.) before getting down to the geopolitics: Continue reading

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Europe’s undeclared role in Asian security – time to bring the arms trade under strategic control?

eurofighterPeople sometimes ask ‘what should be Europe’s role in Asian security?’, but surely we have first to understand the role European nations and their institutions are already playing.

Something that doesn’t often get discussed (excepting the EU embargo on arms to China) is the increasingly important role played by Europe as supplier of defence equipment and technology to Asia, Continue reading


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Europeans at Shangri-la dialogue achieve Woody Allen’s 80%

scarlett-johansson-woody-allen04Woody Allen said that 80% of life is showing up. By that standard, the various European security actors (EU, NATO, a couple of sovereign states) made the grade at this year’s Shangri-la shindig on Asian security.

EU: Cathy Ashton went (first time) and gave a speech in plenary. It was Continue reading


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Bond on North Korea

Out of range, out of mind: Is there a role for Europe in the Korean crisis?” 

What can Europe hope to do about the situation in North Korea? Ian Bond (director of foreign policy at the Centre for European Reform) has some suggestions (link to full article  here):

“If this becomes a shooting war, Europe’s practical role in Korea will be limited (though European forces may be called on to stand in for US forces in areas closer to home, and some allies may have niche capabilities to offer). But if, as most experts believe, the situation eventually calms down, in the longer term Europeans can help North Korea and the concerned powers to move forward by taking the initiative in four areas. Continue reading

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European External Action’s David O’Sullivan to explain “Priorities for EU Diplomacy in East Asia”


On 12 Feb, Tokyo’s GRIPS Forum will host David O’Sullivan, Chief Operating Officer of the European External Action Service, who will explain the priorities for EU Diplomacy in East Asia. Details here

The EU Delegation says this about it:

“East Asia is home to some of the world’s largest and fastest growing economies, and several of European Union’s biggest economic and trade partners. And yet, years after the emergence of first discourses on regional integration East Asia remains fragmented. While economic interconnectedness is increasingly felt between states in the region, as well as across regions, East Asia is unable to overcome deep-rooted historical legacies. China (together with Hong Kong and Macao), Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and ASEAN account for about 28% of EU’s global trade in goods and services and East Asia offers rapidly expanding market opportunities for EU member states. However, at the same time there is much at stake for Europe if security and stability of the region deteriorated due to territorial disputes. David O’Sullivan, Chief Operation Officer of the EEAS will come to share his perspective on what are the priorities of EU’s engagement with the East Asian region.”

12 February (Tue), 2013 16:40-17:40

Venue: GRIPS 1st Floor Sokairou Hall
Participation Fee: Free (prior registration required)
Language: English (with Japanese simultaneous interpretation)
Inquiries: gripsforum@grips.ac.jp

I have three questions that I would love David O’Sullivan to address: What is the EU prepared to do –

(i) to ease the tensions on the Korean peninsula?

(ii) to help with the peaceful resolution of the territorial disputes (between several E. Asian states)? and

(iii) to support the creation of the ASEAN Political Security Community (due 2015)?

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Panetta calls on Europe to join the US rebalance to Asia, NATO to assist ASEAN

Panetta Kings Jan 2013Outgoing US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta delivered a speech in London on 18 January, where he called on Europe to join in the US rebalance to Asia: Continue reading

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