Saturday, September 29, 2012

X-Post: Gateway House- The Geo-strategic Pacific Islands

By Tevita Motutalo

Source: Gateway House

Traditionally, the South Pacific islands have been considered strategically insignificant. However, the need for resources, and the geopolitical shift towards Asia-Pacific have prompted nations to realize that these small island states control large resource-rich ocean areas and are increasingly geostrategic.

“Five trillion dollars of commerce rides on the (Asia-Pacific) sea lanes each year, and you people are sitting right in the middle of it.”
(USPACOM chief Admiral Samuel Locklear, Pacific Island Forum, Cook Islands, 2012.)

From August 27 - 31, leaders from countries as far afield as India, China and the U.S. converged on the tiny Aitutaki Island in the South Pacific to meet members of the 16-country Pacific Island Forum. The need for resources and geopolitical rebalancing has raised the profile of the region so much that, for the first time, a U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, attended the Forum — a clear demonstration that the U.S. is serious about its Pacific “pivot” to Asia.

The reason is China. In March last year, Clinton told the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee about the region: “Let’s just talk straight realpolitik. We are in a competition with China. China is in there every day in every way, trying to figure out how it’s going to come in behind us, come in under us.”

Last weekend, U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta passed by New Zealand reinforcing Clinton’s Forum debut, and China’s Secretary of National People’s Congress, Wu Bangguo returned from Fiji after inking several economic cooperation pacts with the military government there including Chinese assistance for cultural and educational development and teaching the Chinese language in the Fijian national curriculum.

According to Wu, Sino-Fijian trade was worth $ 172 million last year, up from 34% in the year prior.
India’s delegation to the Forum was high profile, led by Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed. Apart from resources, and strategic positioning, the Pacific also controls a relatively large number of votes in international fora, and India is keen to secure support for its bid for a seat for the United Nation’s Security Council.

But one of India’s strongest allies in the region wasn’t invited – Fiji. A key item on the Forum’s agenda was whether or not to readmit Fiji. Fiji has been central to Indian interests in the region. Following the 2006 coup, at the urging of Australia and New Zealand, sanctions were brought against Fiji and, whilst also suspended from the Forum in 2009. When India attempted to assist, it was warded off by Canberra. Consequently, the Fijian regime fell in deep with the remaining alternative active player in the region, China, one of the biggest investors in the region thereby receiving generous economic and military cooperation from Beijing.

The sanctions are of PIF-origin, and as China is not a member of the Forum, it is not bound to obey. These sanctions, issued by Australia, New Zealand, and the EU, resulted in the reduction of their aid assistance, a restriction on visas or transit for any member of the Fijian regime, and of course on trade.

The welfare of the more than 300,000 Fijian Indians in Fiji, and more amongst the Pacific states, is a core interest for India: a united, stable region decreases complications for region’s bloc support for India.
Fiji’s continued suspension is fragmenting the region. Isolated, Fiji shepherded a more consolidated, mineral-rich, Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG)- though created in 1983 it remained docile within the Forum until, following Fiji’s lead, it was formalised in 2007 taking on a “Look North” foreign policy cline.

This sub-regional grouping includes the majority ethnic Melanesian nations of Fiji, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, and is backed by China (which has built the MSG secretariat in Vanuatu). In response, last year, as relations continued to deteriorate, New Zealand by proxy, helped create a competing “Polynesian Leaders Group.” comprised of majority ethically Polynesian nations.

This use of racial politics – the attempt to pit against each other the normally friendly Melanesians and Polynesians – was spurred and sponsored by Australia and New Zealand because it seemed to suit their short-term political goals. Instead, it is creating regional instability, something that ultimately benefits China. China itself is also bringing volatility to the region, with increasing cases of crime and drug and human trafficking linked to Chinese nationals.

Australia and New Zealand can reverse this trend. Just before and since after this year's Forum, both country’s leaders have started echoing reintegration of Fiji into regional bloc, lifting sanctions, and also even further to incentivize positive developments that will lead to elections in 2014, as promised by the Bainimarama government. The U.S. understands the implications and, before the Forum, expressed its expectation that Fiji be reinstated into the Forum. In spite of wide support, Australia and New Zealand blocked the move.

This raises questions about the priorities of some policy makers in Australia and New Zealand. They cite two reasons for the continued marginalisation of Fiji:
  1. If Fiji relations are normalised, it may grow as a more important regional political and economic hub (given its central location even now most of the regional organisations’ headquarters are located in Suva), challenging Canberra and Wellington’s role as the go-to places for Pacific investment and regional insight.
  2. While most in Wellington and Canberra undoubtedly value their strong relationship with the West, some policy-makers seem to be tempering that with a desire to have stronger economic and—as a result increasingly political–ties with China.
The second point is raising the most concerns in global capitals. Recently, former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating called on the U.S. to “share” the Pacific with China. And New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Bill English declared that “Australia is a province of China, and New Zealand is a suburb of Australia.”

While Australia’s stated reason for the exclusion of Fiji from the Forum is its abolition of democracy, some influential figures in Canberra seem to have no problem engaging with even more autocratic governments that, unlike Fiji, have no plans to reintroduce democracy. In August, for example, Keating justified engagement with China by writing: “If we are pressed into the notion only democratic governments are legitimate, our future is limited to action within some confederation of democracies.”

Australian and New Zealand foreign policy is going through an internal civil war, with one side willing to sacrifice values and the trust of its traditional allies for the perception of economic gain from China (Wikileaks exposed that Australia pushed Nauru to derecognise Taiwan in favour of Beijing), and the other solidly part of the West.

Myopic and petty regional policies of Fiji’s marginalisation threw the door wide open for, and only benefits, China. Challenges to the region are heightening and so apparent, the U.S. now has to intervene directly to try to reinvigorate a West-friendly Pacific. Clinton declared the region “strategically and economically vital and becoming more so,” yet “big enough for all of us.” But her presence was signal intent to counter Chinese inroads. Beijing already assumes it has neutered Australia (and, presumably, doesn’t even bother about New Zealand).

 An editorial in the state-run People’s Daily—on 30th August in response to the US’s aircraft carrier presence at the Forum—stated that, in the Pacific, “The U.S. may have evaluated that Australia alone is no longer enough to hold China at bay.”

 For all the inroads created by inept policies in Fiji, Wu is reported to have taken a swipe at sanctions imposed on Fiji, and with a symbolic gesture, as guarantor of Fijian national interests, will oppose countries that are trying to “bully” Fiji. It effectively means China does not owe Australia and New Zealand any favours for misplacing their cards. Secondly, as China thinks its interests are linked with those of the island countries, this gives China opportunities for wide justification to intervene in South Pacific security – especially given the expectation afforded to it as a global power.

The divisive politics on show at the Forum need to stop. A first step, something that India can assist with, is welcoming Fiji back to the family, and helping it through its democratisation.

Tevita Motulalo is a Researcher at Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations. He is the former Editor of the Tonga Chronicle. He is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in geopolitics at Manipal University.

Related: The visit to Fiji of H.E. Wu Bangguo - Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National Peoples Congress of the Peoples Republic of China (video posted below)

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Monday, September 24, 2012

X-Post: PacificUS - With Panetta’s Visit, US – NZ Defense Relationship Evolving Amid Pacific Rebalancing.

Last Saturday, US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta left for his third trip to the Asia-Pacific this year, scheduling stops in Japan, China and New Zealand.  Panetta’s visits to Japan and China are attempts to smooth relations between the states, and the trip to New Zealand is a follow-up from the visit earlier this year to Washington, DC by NZ Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman.  The trip will be the first time in 30 years that a US Defense Secretary has visited New Zealand, and marks a change in regional strategic dynamics.  

A critical part of the Obama Administration’s rebalancing in the Asia-Pacific includes repairing and deepening strategic relationships with New Zealand (among other smaller and medium-sized states) and to sustain opportunities for regular, high-level dialogue.  While New Zealand does not have a sizeable defense force to contribute to US-led operations, the small democracy is a valuable ally that can serve as an ‘honest broker’ and voice of legitimacy in the Asia-Pacific.

Pivoting for the Pacific’s Sake? Not Likely. 

Recently, New Zealand has received undue attention from American diplomats and cabinet secretaries because the US has much to gain politically and economically (if not militarily) from the bilateral relationship.  Whether the National or Labour Party is in government, New Zealand has a reputation both regionally and internationally as a state with a strong pacifist orientation that advocates for its values and the wellbeing of its Pacific neighbors.  As a founding member of and voice within the Pacific Islands Forum, New Zealand can be a significant agent for American interests during the leaders’ meetings.  Moreover, New Zealand’s promotion of US naval patrols, development assistance, trade relations, diplomatic connections and so forth would enable the US to exercise greater power projection in the region.

The 1984 Labour government’s nuclear-free announcement reflected in part New Zealand’s continuous desire for an independent foreign policy based on “conflict avoidance and resolution, humanitarian assistance, human rights, and environmental defense.”  The declaration prohibiting American nuclear ships from their ports was a policy move that was necessitated by public opinion and new Labour supporters and representatives.  Since its proclamation, the nuclear-free policy has been largely nonpartisan. 

While the strategic dimension of US-NZ relations faltered from the 1980’s, it never disappeared, and was supplemented by intelligence collaboration.  In addition to a strong commitment to special forces training and deployment (particularly the New Zealand Special Air Services), the intelligence-sharing between the US and New Zealand has remained significant since 1946. Despite disagreement with the US government over the invasion of Iraq, intelligence sharing remained consistent.  In fact, after 2001, New Zealand increased its intelligence budget by 30 percent while decreasing its overall defense budget.

Maritime defense, domain awareness, and disaster rescue operations are essential areas of mutual concern for New Zealand and the US in the Pacific, particularly given the Christchurch earthquake, China’s soft loans to Pacific island nations, and overfishing.  For the first time in 28 years, the New Zealand Defence Force participated in the Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) in July-August, the largest international maritime exercise.  Interoperability is a key component of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy in the Pacific, and as Nathan Smith writes, the exercises served both diplomatic and more practical purposes for New Zealand and Australia.  

Security concerns for New Zealand focus on the sea lines of communication due to heavy reliance on maritime trade; the country’s small blue-water navy is primarily geared for search and rescue and maritime interdiction.  Despite not being allowed to berth ships in Pearl Harbor due to the nuclear-free policy (in contrast to former foes Japan and Russia), Kiwi sailors did not seemed fussed, and took advantage of the nightlife offered by Honolulu.

As we have seen through the signing of the Wellington and Washington Declarations, the current National Government is in agreement with the Obama Administration’s Pacific rebalancing.  Moreover, the close relationship between US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell and NZ Ambassador to the US Michael Moore, and the work US Ambassador to NZ David Huebner has done in Wellington are examples of peoples and governments that seek mutual benefits and understanding.
Improving understanding rather than compromising on ideals

A question that NZ Defence Minister Coleman will face in meeting with Secretary Panetta is how much more New Zealand will be able to commit to the bilateral relationship without sacrificing its ideals.  There will almost surely be a small demonstration in Wellington during Secretary Panetta’s visit about the TPP, or anti-US policies led by local anarchists from Aro Valley, as there is during most high profile visits.  However, in most cases it seems that the New Zealand government knows when and when not to compromise on foreign policy issues, with bipartisan support for free trade agreements.

New Zealand can leverage an improved defense relationship with the US to secure better terms for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) and other future trade agreements (including a potential US-NZ FTA as sought by New Zealand).  The latest negotiation terms for the TPP are not public; however controversial public issues being debated concern intellectual property rights and copyright law, both of which have been met by public protests and contestation from New Zealand and Australia.  If the US gets what it wants in terms of defense initiatives, it may soften some of the demands of the TTP and open a path to a US-NZ FTA.

Setting the nuclear-free policy aside, both National and Labour governments have been fairly amicable to US defense relations.  So what more could New Zealand gain from a “stronger and deeper bilateral defense relationship” as set out in the Washington Declaration?  With both sides facilitating the establishment of “regular, senior-level, strategic policy dialogues between the US DoD and NZ Ministry of Defence and NZDF,” New Zealand can not only legitimate the US strategic involvement in the region but can continue to bolster its own authority.  Welcoming perhaps the strongest ally with shared values and democratic ideals can serve to boost Kiwi clout and spur domestic confidence

Development assistance in the Pacific is another area of mutual interest with opportunity for growth.  Australia provides half of all official development assistance to Papua New Guinea and Pacific island countries (AUD$1.17 billion) and New Zealand spends more than half of its country programs budget on Pacific island countries. At the latest Pacific Islands Forum, the US showed that it is ready to lift a portion of the development aid load in the Pacific; US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton announced $32M in new aid programs 18 years after ending such programs in the Pacific.

As former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Secretary Panetta should be attuned to the value that New Zealand provides as a voice and ear in the Asia-Pacific.  One Kiwi commentator wrote that New Zealand should be weary of his arrival in the country, and that the US will ask too much from Kiwis.  However, the RIMPAC ship porting issue notwithstanding, strategic and diplomatic relations between the US and New Zealand have moved forward since 2007.  

Leadership of both states are keen to return to an era of stronger defense ties to help guarantee their security and to enhance stability in the Pacific.  Having met already this year in Washington, DC, the meeting this week between defense bosses is likely more of a touch point to ensure regular high-level dialogue occurs.  With the Washington Declaration in place and successes to build on from the past year, the additional avenues for deepening defense cooperation may be limited but may be milestones nonetheless.


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Friday, September 21, 2012

X-Post: 36th Parallel - Analytic Brief: A Romney Foreign Policy in the Southwestern Pacific.

Source: 36th Parallel

Analysis – By Dr. Paul G. Buchanan.

Introduction: 36th Parallel Assessments Founding Partner Dr. Paul G. Buchanan has been traveling in the US for a month. He has had an opportunity to observe the US election campaign from both coasts, and in this brief discusses the implications for foreign policy of a successful Mitt Romney presidential bid.

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The 2012 US presidential election is focused on economic policy and management, but foreign policy issues have crept into the campaign. The US relationship with Israel, Iran, China, the Arab Middle East and Russia have become the subject of debate between President Obama and the Republican challenger, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Although Mr. Romney trails in the polls less than two months from the election date, it is worth considering what his election could mean for the US approach to the South and Western Pacific. In this brief 36th Parallel Assessments outlines the conceptual strands informing the Romney foreign policy perspective, then moves to analysis of what it means for future US-Pacific relations.

The core foreign policy approach of the Republican Party has traditionally been realism. Because of the exigencies of the Cold War and its aftermath, Republican realism in practice has had “soft” and “hard” as well as neo-realist variants (in the latter economic power takes precedence over military power in the promotion of national interests). During the Cold War the soft and hard realist versions were applied by presidents Eisenhower and Nixon according to strategic circumstances and diplomatic necessity so that nuance could be achieved in the conduct of US foreign affairs.

Hard realist approaches involve the application of power based on self-interest. Soft realist approaches mitigate the application of power with non-interest based concerns, such as through the provision of humanitarian assistance to non-strategically important countries. For the Republican Party in the late 20th century, the key was to balance the hard, soft and neo-realist approaches to world affairs.  Notable Republican realists include Henry Kissinger, George Schultz, Brent Scowcroft and more recently the strategist Robert Kagan and economist Robert Zoellick.

Paul G. Buchanan

" Compared with other regions, the approach to the Southwest Pacific will be less effected by a change to a Romney administration, but there will be changes nevertheless. The US will take a stronger line on Chinese influence in the Pacific, which will include reassertion of US naval dominance in the South Pacific waterways and sea lanes of communication used by the Chinese for trade and the prioritization of US defense ties to the countries surrounding China. "
Beginning in the 1970s, a line of thought emerged in US politics that came to be known as neo-conservative. Not be confused with neo-liberalism, which is an economic school that follows the monetarist prescription of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, neo-conservatism is an ideology that extols the moral superiority of  ”American” values and with that the necessary role of the US as the world’s diplomatic arbiter and systems regulator. This requires US preeminence in economics, diplomacy and international security affairs. The vision is eminently idealist in that it speaks to a higher purpose behind American exceptionalism, but is not equivalent to the idealism so often associated with pacifists and traditional political liberals. Prominent neo-conservatives include the late Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Dick Cheney, Richard Perle, Dan Senor, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton and Elliot Abrams.

Neo-conservatism gained ground within the Republican Party during the Reagan presidency but saw its influence reduced under the George H. Bush administration (the first president Bush was a committed realist who had an extraordinary amount of experience in international affairs and US foreign policy. He was particularly unimpressed with the neo-conservative desire to re-shape the world in the preferred American image).

In the late 1990s neo-conservatism came back with renewed vigor under the auspices of the Project for a New American Century, which provided the foundations of the George D. Bush foreign policy, particularly after September 11, 2001. Believing that the US continues to be the world’s greatest nation and that its decline is relative, can be arrested and is the product of political failures by Democrats, the neo-conservative approach to foreign policy is interventionist and uni- or bi-lateral in focus. It places great emphasis on asserting US “exceptionalism” via military diplomacy, moral supremacy and economic self-reliance.

Like president Obama before his election, Mitt Romney has virtually no foreign policy experience and is considered to possess a cautious, pragmatic, results-oriented personality. But the similarities end there. Mr. Obama understands the constraints on US power in an increasingly multipolar world (where complete national economic self-reliance is difficult to achieve), whereas Mr. Romney adheres to the belief in American exceptionalism and its continued powers of moral authority on the world stage. He has reconciled his beliefs in the field of foreign policy by appointing a mixture of realists and neo-conservatives to his advisory team. The former include Zoellick, Kagan and William Kristol (and to a lesser extent John McCain), while the latter include Bolton, Wolfowitz , Senor and former ambassador Richard Williamson. Although not working on his campaign, Romney is believed to seek the occasional counsel of Henry Kissinger and Condoleeza Rice (a Sovietologist by training) when necessary.

The general consensus is that Mr. Romney is less evangelical than his neo-conservative advisors, but less pragmatic than his realist counsels. His foreign policy stance is formally based on “American leadership and peace through strength.” However, during the election campaign he has genuflected to the Tea Party movement and conservative Christians in the electorate who are now the core of the Republican base by adopting neo-conservative rhetoric on issues such as Iran, Israel and China.

Paul G. Buchanan

" The US will continue to engage Fiji as it moves to elections in 2014, but its main objective will be to counterbalance Chinese inroads in that country under the Bainimarama regime. This effort will be given additional priority due to the expanding Russian ties to the Fijian regime. Likewise, the US will seek to counter improved Sino-Samoan ties by increasing its engagement with the latter (this will include addressing issues of Western Samoans working in and with American Samoan firms) "
This is not uncommon, as presidential candidates often take more extreme positions on issues of policy while campaigning, then moderate those positions once confronted with the pressures of office (as was the case with president Obama). The question is whether Mr. Romney will jettison the neo-conservative approach if he is elected (which many believe will be the case), or whether the neo-conservatives will be given pride of place in his foreign policy team as a reward for their work in shoring up the Republican base during the campaign.

The bigger issue is that in the words of journalist Bob Woodward, the Republican Party is “at war with itself.” It may be impolitic to say, but the Tea Party tail is wagging the GOP dog, and moderate Republicans–that is, those who were economic and social liberals but security conservatives (hence their realism)–are not only a dying breed but increasingly unwelcome in their traditional party of choice. This forces candidates like Mr. Romney, who is an economic liberal but perhaps more of a social and security conservative than the old “Rockefeller Republicans,” to bow to the nationalistic, isolationist yet internationally messianic Right (a contradiction, to be sure, but that is what the Tea Party movement is). Should he win the election, Mr. Romney will find himself trying to arbitrate the internecine war within the GOP by balancing his cabinet choices. One way of doing so is to have a neo-conservative as Secretary of State and a realist as Secretary of Defense (since Pentagon realism could provide a check on the State Department’s evangelical and interventionist ambitions).

If elected it can be expected that Mr. Romney will continue to advance the US “pivot” towards Asia announced by President Obama. He will, however, have a more militaristic edge to his agenda vis a vis the PRC, as he appears to tie trade and security relations much more tightly than  Obama has done and has spoken of confronting China as a trade cheat and military rival. He will re-focus US attention on Russia, which in a Cold War throw-back he has called the “greatest geopolitical threat” to the US. He will reaffirm US support for Israel, to include its position on occupied territories, negotiations with Palestinian authorities and dealing with Iran (in fact some analysts have suggested that Romney’s personal friendship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has essentially allowed the latter to dictate the candidate’s approach to the Middle East).

Should individuals like John Bolton or Dan Senor be given senior cabinet positions, the possibility of armed conflict with Iran will increase significantly (Bolton, who was US UN ambassador during George W. Bush’s first presidential term and Dan Senor, who was a senior advisor and chief spokesman  in Paul Bremmer’s Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) administration of occupied Iran, are both staunch hawks with regard to Iran and have called for pre-emptive strikes on it to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons).

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It should be noted that Mr. Romney does not have any high profile (ex) military leaders publicly working with his campaign, which leaves it to his civilian advisors to define his security policy. Since the neo-conservatives he is surrounded with are known as “chicken hawks” due to their aversion for military service but advocacy of military interventionism, this places him in the unfortunate dilemma of not having experienced military people vetting some of the more risky policies his advisors advocate.

Because Republicans are not as enthused about multilateral institutions and approaches in international affairs, and because the conservative Right in the US views them with hostility, a re-emphasis on bilateral initiatives and relations can be expected under a Romney presidency. His administration would not abandon multilateralism entirely, especially in the case of ongoing initiatives such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations or International Security Assistance Force draw-down in Afghanistan. If elected, Mr. Romney will reverse the Obama defense cuts currently under discussion, as both sides of his foreign policy team foresee an increased military nature to the competition with China along with the emergence of new state-based security threats in an age of rapidly evolving lethal technologies. He will continue to employ the

Obama’s counter-insurgency strategy against irregular threats, which consists of a “drones and bones” approach where unmanned aerial vehicles and small teams of special operations troops are used to track and hunt down Islamic militants world-wide with or without the cooperation of local governments.
Two areas of agreement between Romney’s foreign policy advisors are the myth of America’s decline and and with regard to the increasingly multipolar nature of the international community. Republican realists and neo-conservatives do not see the US as being in irreversible decline and do not see the rise of middle powers such as those encompassed in the so-called BRICs coming anywhere close to a true multipolar balance of power. They note that the US is still the world’s greatest manufacturing power, the largest trading nation, the core of the world financial system, a leader in aerospace, telecommunications and robotic technologies, and the preferred trade and security partner for a majority of nations, to include some of the newly emerging regional powers. They all concur that unlike the Obama administration’s purported “leading from behind” approach (where the US supports and encourages international endeavors but does not attempt to take the lead in every foreign policy situation), the US is at the very least duty-bound to lead the international community, if not chart the course of international affairs.

Compared with other regions, the approach to the Southwest Pacific will be less effected by a change to a Romney administration, but there will be changes nevertheless. The US will take a stronger line on Chinese influence in the Pacific, which will include reassertion of US naval dominance in the South Pacific waterways and sea lanes of communication used by the Chinese for trade and the prioritization of US defense ties to the countries surrounding China. This ramping up of regional security ties will be aided by the recent US-Australia and US-New Zealand security agreements, which have bolstered the US military relationship with both countries while promoting greater burden sharing by them. As part of its enhanced commitment to bilateral defense ties in the Western Pacific, the US will continue to work to cement its chain of security partners throughout the region, which now include Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Brunei, Singapore and Indonesia as well as Australia and New Zealand (the US is also pursuing improved security ties with Malaysia and Vietnam, both of whom have their own concerns about Chinese regional expansionism and in the Vietnamese case a history of enmity with its larger neighbor).

The US will continue to engage Fiji as it moves to elections in 2014, but its main objective will be to counterbalance Chinese inroads in that country under the Bainimarama regime. This effort will be given additional priority due to the expanding Russian ties to the Fijian regime. Likewise, the US will seek to counter improved Sino-Samoan ties by increasing its engagement with the latter (this will include addressing issues of Western Samoans working in and with American Samoan firms). The biggest objective for the US and its main ally, Australia, will be to increase US and Australian influence in the Solomons and Papua New Guinea now that those countries’ on- and off-shore mineral resources are fully exploitable. The scramble for resource sector investment supremacy is on, and since Chinese firms already are involved in resource extractive ventures in these countries as well as other Pacific Island states, Romney’s priority task will be to promote US and Australian commercial interests as the chief competitors to Chinese firms. All of these initiatives are already in place under the Obama administration, but a Romney presidency can be expected to reinforce and accentuate them.

Under a Romney presidency the US would place more emphasis on its individual relations with Pacific countries and less emphasis on regional organizations such as the PIF and SPC. Republicans have questioned the utility of developmental assistance to non-strategic or chronically under-developed nations, so it can be expected that those questions will reverberate in Romney’s foreign policy approach to the South Pacific.

Depending on whether neo-conservatives or realists dominate foreign policy decision-making in a Romney administration, there is the possibility of tensions with China increasing within the region. Neo-conservatives will attempt to reassert the preeminence of US values and US interests  using a harder edged approach than that preferred by the realists, who will continue to emphasize a soft power approach in a region where the PRC cannot yet compete militarily but in which it has much diplomatic and economic clout. The neo-conservatives will drive a harder bargain on Pacific Island Countries when it comes to aid and developmental assistance, although this may prove counter-productive given the inroads the Chinese have already made in the region.

The larger point is that with neo-conservatives at the US foreign policy helm, overall tensions within the region will likely increase as the US toughens its unspoken containment policy vis a vis the Chinese. Should realists control US foreign policy under Mr. Romney, than a continuation of the Obama administration’s “smart” power approach is likely to continue without much alteration, albeit with an increased military emphasis.

Summary. Although it is looking less likely that Mitt Romney will win the 2012 presidential elections, his foreign policy positions provide a good indicator of current Republican approaches to the subject. This is useful for charting future trends should the GOP control Congress for the next four years and/or mount a successful presidential bid in 2016. The important aspects of Republican foreign policy before and after the Romney presidential campaign will be a commitment to unsurpassed world leadership based on military supremacy, moral authority and economic might.
A Romney foreign policy will be less multilateral in its perspective on and engagement with the outside world than that of the current Obama administration, and should neo-conservatives dominate the decision-making process, will be more confrontational and interventionist in nature, to include advocacy of the doctrine of unilateral pre-emption against perceived adversaries and using military diplomacy as the leading instrument of strategic power balancing.
For the Southwestern Pacific this means the possibility of increased US-PRC tensions spilling into regional politics, with a Republican-led US putting more pressure on nations that are attempting to balance US-Sino relations in their own foreign policy approaches. Besides geopolitically important Pacific island states such as Fiji, the main focus will be on Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, with the US and Australia accelerating development of their bilateral military ties in pursuit of better joint force integration and inter-operability.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

US Assistant Secretary of State, Kurt Campbell CSIS Discussion - Reviewing the PIF 2012.

U. S think tank, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) hosted a discussion with Assistant Secretary of State, Kurt M. Campbell, which covered for the most part, the Post Forum Dialogue at the 2012 Pacific Islands Forum.

During the Q & A segment, at approx [16.20 min mark], a representative from the Fiji Embassy at Washington D.C, took exception to the remarks made by Campbell alluding that "Fiji had no clear path to democracy" and corrected the erroneous statements .

The Fiji Embassy representative highlighted quintessential progress with respect to the Road map, Electoral processes and the Constitutional Commission, that were not duly recognized by Fiji's metropolitan neighbors- in effect, poisoning the well during the Trilateral meet at the Post-Forum dialogue, resulting in the misrepresentation of facts, by Secretary Campbell.

Video of the discussion (posted below).

Audio of the discussion (posted below)

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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

X-Post: Whale Oil- Whale in Fiji: Speaking with Leighton Smith

by Whaleoil on September 5, 2012

I was in at NewstalkZB this morning and Leighton Smith grabbed me on the way past and we spoke for a few minutes on my observations in Fiji.
Have a listen [podcast posted below] to my observations on Fiji.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

X-Post: Whale Oil- Whale in Fiji: Pio Tikoduadua

by Whaleoil on September 5, 2012 

While in Fiji I was fortunate to meet Pio Tikoduadua, Permanent Secretary – Office of the Prime Minister. Again access was easy to obtain and certainly without the high levels of security that New Zealand politicians have around them. For a country that supposedly is under military control I certainly was left wondering just where are all the troops that need to go back to the barracks.

We discussed the “smart sanctions” and the impact on Fiji. Contrary to the intention of the “smart sanctions” in forcing Fiji to return to the democracy that we want for them, they have in fact helped Fiji to find their won way forward. Trade and Tourism has in fact grown despite the sanctions. The sanctions though have caused a deep resentment of the New Zealand and Australian governments. Mainly because the effects have been at a deeply personal level and have affected the health of people. They believe that the sanctions have failed the foreign policy goals of New Zealand and in fact have strengthened Fiji internationally and economically.

Here is a short summary [video posted below] of the pertinent points:

Pio Tikoduadua was openly dismissive of Phil Goff and his comments about Fiji prior to the South Pacific Forum. New Zealand’s neo-colonial attitude is not appreciated and the Fijian people and government find it insulting and condescending. The discussion around the independence of the judiciary and the effect of the sanctions on recruiting judges and officials. Tikoduadua believes that New Zealand’s and Australia’s belief that their judges and lawyers are the only ones that somehow qualified to work in Fiji is quaint and condescending and without merit.

The discussion over the Constitutional Reform process in Fiji was refreshing and one that perhaps New Zealand can learn from. There are no limits to the constitutional discussion and as I drove around Fiji there were constant advertisements encouraging people to participate and have their say about the Constitutional framework. Which then led into a discussion about the three constitutions that Fiji has suffered under, all that were “cooked up” by politicians and the processes ignored the people of Fiji.

The collusion of politicians and the Great Council of Chiefs to produce a constitution that created racial separatism that could only have caused problems. For these reasons they believe that Fiji needs to create its own Constitution.

The full audio [posted below]of the interview is below: