Showing posts with label America's Pacific century. Show all posts
Showing posts with label America's Pacific century. Show all posts

Saturday, December 21, 2013

X-Post: Australia’s Regional Foreign Policy Left Standing In The Shadows Of The Anglosphere




Upon taking government, Australia’s conservative coalition parties, led by Tony Abbott, had a simple foreign policy refrain: more Jakarta, less Geneva.

The previous Labor government had a more ambitious suite of policies on positioning Australia in the Asian century, yet regionalism was still order of the day. Despite the supposed predilection for regionalism and Australia’s unique geopolitical interests, leaked NSA documents on intelligence operations in Indonesia suggest the country is struggling to reconcile historical alliances to the Five Eyes network and the rising ASEAN heavyweights. In short, Australia may still be standing in the shadows of the Anglosphere.

Material leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden indicates the Australian Defence Signals Directorate attempted to tap the phones of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the president’s wife and high-level Indonesian ministers in 2009. Claims have also aired that the Australian Secret Intelligence Service placed listening devices in the Timorese cabinet room in 2004 during deliberations on a proposed oil and gas treaty with the Australian government.

The theatrical diplomatic confrontation that has followed these leaks coincides with a critical juncture in the Australia-Indonesia relationship. Indonesian cooperation with the Abbott government’s border protection strategy is operationally essential. Operation Sovereign Borders requires high-level Indonesian cooperation as most asylum seekers transit through Indonesia before making a seaward journey to Australia.

Many of the NSA revelations about Australian intelligence activities are not surprising, nor unexpected to the political elite of Asian Pacific countries. However, the revelations are likely to reinforce the worst stereotypes and popular regional (mis)conceptions of Australian foreign policy. More than ever Australian diplomatic activity will be seen through an unflattering prism of US patronage.

For the Pacific Islands, the Australian government is cast as a meddling neo-colonialist, pursing its economic and security agendas under the guise of aid effectiveness demands, unfair trade deals and conditional loans. Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama and Papua New Guinea’s Peter O’Neill can now become even more publicly sceptical about Australian security narratives on Melanesian state stability and efforts to counter Chinese state investment.

For the current Indonesian parliament, political class and press, historical suspicions about Australia’s position on West Papuan independence, disappointment over live cattle embargos and residual political angst at Australian intervention in East Timor have raised to the surface of Indonesian political discourse.

The parties were primed for this exact type of diplomatic conflict after the then Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd referenced the 1962-66 Indonesian-Malaysian Confrontation, known as Konfrontasi (in which Australian troops fought as part of British forces in Borneo and West Malaysia against Indonesian-supported forces ), when discussing the Liberal Party’s border protection policy and its contravention of Indonesian sovereignty. Those that see the diplomatic spat as nothing more than theatre would argue these elevated suspicions are not that far from the latent, regional perceptions of Australia security and foreign policy.

Scott Hickie

" For the Pacific Islands, the Australian government is cast as a meddling neo-colonialist, pursing its economic and security agendas under the guise of aid effectiveness demands, unfair trade deals and conditional loans. Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama and Papua New Guinea’s Peter O’Neill can now become even more publicly sceptical about Australian security narratives on Melanesian state stability and efforts to counter Chinese state investment. "
Considering the status quo perceptions, the NSA revelations could be dismissed as having little substantive consequence – the inevitable price to be paid for a ‘regional sheriff’ keeping frail states and economically weak authoritarian regimes in check and supporting the Anglosphere.

However, the relative power balance across Southeast Asia and the Pacific has changed over the last 10 to 15 years. A notable proportion of fragile and developing states have emerged from negative growth and post conflict environments to improved security situations and increased political stability and have posted almost decade-long continued GDP growth alongside institutional reform.

These unfolding regional economic developments translate to growing political confidence and diplomatic clout for the rising ASEAN powers. The dynamic also underscores greater interdependency between Australia’s future trade interests and security posture – particularly critical on- and off-shore infrastructure in North West Australia.

This point is sometimes lost on Australia’s political class and public who harbour a decade old regional security understanding preoccupied with Australian proximity to fragile states and developing countries beset with political instability. A recent Lowy Institute poll on Australian perceptions of Indonesia shows an almost collective amnesia about any economic or political transformation post-Suharto.

Notwithstanding Australia’s considerable intelligence investment in Indonesia and the large-scale Bali terrorist attack in 2002, the security threats anticipated by the United States and Australia in early post-9/11 have not materialised to the magnitude anticipated and feared. Transboundary Islamic militancy and violent jihadist groups spreading a unified arc of insecurity across southern Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, primarily threatening Western interests, has not unfolded.

Provincial insurgencies, though in existence, have not toppled governments, triggered systemic, wide-scale human rights abuses demanding a regional/international Responsibility to Protect response or disrupted trade. Over the last decade, and in terms of wide-scale human devastation and insecurity, no event has surpassed the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that took the lives of 230,000 and left 1.69 million displaced. Yet, the call of the Anglosphere remains strong.

If the degree to which Australia plays the United States’ proxy regional security underwriter can be scaled back, diplomatic space may open for Australia to carve out a more independent regional international relations agenda. While there is significant consistency and similarity between US and Australian foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific, there remains nuanced but critical points of divergence around trade agreements, regional counter-terrorism initiatives, resolution of maritime boundary disputes, aid and human rights agendas in Southeast Asia. Most importantly, it is the emerging security interdependency at a regional scale that requires prioritisation.

One of the challenges for Australia tempering or better calibrating its regional interdependency with historical and so-called ‘civilisational’ allegiances is the optics and perception of Australia repositioning itself within some sort of Asian sphere of influence.

A US Asia-Pacific pivot and China’s increasing economic dominance and military modernisation lures existing and rising regional middle powers to the bipolar corners of the two global hegemons. Stronger Australian links with Indonesia and Malaysia could be miscalculated as Australia being one step away from falling into the Sino fold. Such a miscalculation fails to appreciate the nature of Indonesian/Malaysian and Chinese relations.

Furthermore, evolving security reconfigurations are resulting from some Southeast Asian countries establishing or augmenting security arrangements with the United States to counterbalance Chinese assertiveness around maritime claims. US efforts to build defence cooperation with Vietnam is a case in point. In one sense this may lead to a dilution of the perceived uniqueness of Australian and US defence ties within the region.

It is evident, now more than ever that Australian foreign policy needs to step out of the shadow of the Anglosphere and develop a deeper network of relations in Southeast Asia. This does not mean compromising US defence ties or being co-opted into a Sino sphere of influence. It means Australia can have greater flexibility to address critical regional trade, security and political imperatives with important neighbours.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Fiji Defense Officials In China Visit.

Fiji's Minister for Defense,National Security and Immigration, Joketani Cokanasiga is currently on an official visit to China , along with the RFMF Chief of Staff, Brigadier-General Mohammed Aziz and the Navy Commander, John Fox, in addition to other Government officials, as reported by Fiji TV One news segment (video posted below) and corroborated by Fiji Sun article.

The visit to China, is a follow up to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for Defense Closer Cooperation and Technical Assistance, jointly signed by People's Republic of China and Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) in late August 2013.



Monday, October 28, 2013

X-Post: Russia’s Pacific Destiny

Source: American Interest 

By



"By virtue of our unique geography”, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in a 2011 Foreign Policy article, “the United States is both an Atlantic and a Pacific power.” Russia, meanwhile, has seen itself as a Euro-Asian country, as Vladimir Putin has argued from the start of his first term in the Kremlin. The American attitude, which in Secretary Clinton’s locution is about as uncontroversial a statement as an American Secretary of State can make, reflects the country’s historic “maritime” vocation. The Russian one reflects the longstanding fascination with the country’s continental scale and reflects its traditional terrestrial focus. It is really no surprise, when you think about it, that during the “space race” Americans fetched their returning astronauts at sea, while Russians did so over land.

Despite these different conceptions of the Pacific, which is now the most dynamic region in the world, both the United States and the Russian Federation have made similar mistakes. The most striking of these has been the equation of the Pacific Rim with Asia and Asians. American and Russian policymakers and experts have commonly spoken of the Asia-Pacific or Asian-Pacific region, respectively. Both groups presuppose that the Pacific Rim cannot even be imagined without the primacy of Asian nations, tacitly agreeing that among them China appears to be a natural leader. The recent and ongoing shift of global wealth toward the Pacific is therefore widely interpreted as a harbinger of the “Asian century.”

Friday, October 25, 2013

X-Post: Pacific Politics - Lamentations from the Pacific.

Kalafi Moala writes that true freedom will come when Pacific peoples start thinking for themselves.
 
A cry is being heard from almost every corner of the Pacific; a cry against injustice, a cry against the harsh hand that has been dealt against us in the centuries old deliberate attempt by the powerful West and their allies to shape us and our social culture, to become like them.

In this colonization of the Pacific peoples to transform them into Western thinking and ways, the overall effect have been devastating. We’ve been abused from the back when we were not looking or when we lacked knowledge, but now we are being abused from the front, when some of us knowingly chose to be subservient rather than assertive. You annexed whole island nations like Hawaii, imprisoning kings and queens, giving the leadership of that sovereign kingdom nation to your European business friends. You took our lands and destroyed our culture, and have turned our shores into bases for your powerful military.

Many of our nations, as in Kiribati and Tuvalu, face a crisis that threatens to sink the islands from the sea-level rise effect of climate change, and our ocean environment in many places have been ruined by the same effect, scientifically proven that it is caused by global warming, a condition caused by reckless Western industrialization. Oh thou Great and Almighty West, when will you understand? When will you stop to think that what you have done and are doing to our peoples have hurt us more than helped us? You’ve set yourself up to be our problem solver. Your attitude is that you know more than we do what is best for us. It’s like a drug-based health care; the medicine often produces worse effects than the disease.

Our ancestors suffered from diseases foreign to our shores, diseases introduced to our region through your intrusions, causing epidemics that wiped out whole village populations. You fought your wars on our shores, tested your nuclear weapons on our islands, and the suffering of our peoples in French Polynesia and Micronesia is still being felt with the fatal effects of exposure to radiation. You created geopolitical divisions and partitioning among all of our island nations, so that it would be easier for you to control us. You divided us among your allies: British, American, French, Australian, and even the Kiwis were given a share.

We felt like war spoils being shared around.
Kalafi Moala

" Oh thou Great and Almighty West, when will you understand? When will you stop to think that what you have done and are doing to our peoples have hurt us more than helped us? "
You would not leave us alone because now you need someone to control, which is characteristic of your imperialist nature. But even when some of our nations have been decolonized politically, you’ve continued the re-colonization process through education, media, and other social configurations. And we have become so aid dependent, we lack the knowledge of what else to do, because we have been trained by you not to think creatively but only to think what we’ve been taught.

You mined our gas and petroleum resources, and sold them to the tune of billions, yet our people in those island states remain poor. You exploited our forest resources, and now those areas are barren and our balanced eco systems have been forever altered. You signed agreements with our governments for seabed mining, fishing rights, and to abstract whatever you need from our ocean life.

For thousands of years our peoples were proud to be self-determined and had homegrown solutions to their problems. They sailed our great ocean lanes to trade, to explore, and even to make a fight or two. But thanks to you we are no longer independent as you have given us a system of civilization that makes us dependent on you, and in the process we have lost our dignity and our determination not just to survive but to live thriving meaningful lives.

In our desperate plight to survive, in a world where you control almost everything, we’ve welcomed the willing help offered us by countries like China, India, UAE, Japan, Korea, and others from the non-Western world; but you have insulted us by saying that we are just changing aid dependency from one colonial power to another. You would rather we continue the dependency on you than on others you’ve held in spite because of their success in self-determined development. Well, for whatever its worth, we don’t recall China or India ever taking over by force our sovereign nations. They did not test their nuclear weapons on us, you did. Is it no wonder we welcome their help more than we do yours?

In a world where the standard of success set by you is measured by political, economic, and social wellbeing, rather than by meaningful relationships and its effects of peace and happiness, it is no wonder why it is so hard for us to make it in your world. Some of our people are relegated to the corners of poverty, ignorance, and high crime rate, in your cities.
Kalafi Moala

" You are the same brutal imperialist power that brought suffering to our forefathers, and we have inherited their unjust plight. "
We speak your language, learn your culture, and operate in your system of things, yet you do not respect us enough to learn our language, observe our culture and values. The solutions you have given to us is that we need to be transformed to be like you – we need to learn your systems, practice your culture, in fact, think like you do, and we then can make it in your world.

Some of our leaders, in fact a lot of our people have embraced your ways and think the way you do. They have made alliance with you, and now they have acted like you, abusing us from within, and selling out on our values. For the past two decades you have increasingly ignored the islands of the Pacific partly due to your view that our worth maybe less than any meaningful investment you make.

The Western powers headed up by the USA and UK have diminished involvement in the Pacific, handing Australia and New Zealand the responsibility to “govern and manage Pacific affairs.” These two regional powers have been outsourced the running of things for the Western powers in the Pacific – from trade, fisheries, mining, forestry, transportation, finance, border security, natural disaster management, to telecommunication, energy, climate change, environment, and many other things serving your own interests.

Now that our non-Western friends like China are becoming more involved in our region, you’ve decided to come back in, but your basic mentality, attitude, policy, and practice have not changed. You are the same brutal imperialist power that brought suffering to our forefathers, and we have inherited their unjust plight.

The basis of unjust policy and practice must be replaced with that of justice. But that is not going to happen until the mighty and powerful decide to come to their senses and forego the misguided illusion that might is right, and power cannot be unchallenged.

As the steps to a long journey begin with the first one, it is time Pacific peoples start thinking and doing what needs to be done so as to start them on their journey to freedom. This is a freedom that only them know when it happens, a freedom that restores independence, self-determination, and dignity.

Source: Pacific Politics

 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Fiji's Dean of Diplomacy.

Fiji's Ambassador to the United States, Winston Thompson, pointed out that, one of the greatest challenges to the various Heads of Mission, was explaining Fiji's progress to 2014 elections to their host nation. (Video posted below)



As Dean of the Fiji Diplomatic Corp, Thompson added, that his host nation, had initially wanted an accelerated time line on Fiji's progress to democracy, but were made to understand that time was needed to bring about a number of structural changes that were needed in building a solid foundation for democracy.

Thompson mentioned Fiji's widening diplomatic profile and this was reflected in the increased trade statistics. Thompson also briefly touched on the U.S Pivot to Asia- Pacific region and alluded that, China's presence in Fiji had not raised much of a concern to the U.S.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

X-Post: Islands Business - Foreign Policy Towards Fiji, Up For Debate

Source: Islands Business

(Audio -posted below) From RNZI



News
Fri 12 Jul 2013
OTAGO, New Zealand --- Foreign policy experts, students and diplomats have been mulling over how best to handle Fiji. The approaches discussed at Otago University’s annual Foreign Policy School ranged from crude horse-trading to long-term strategic planning.

As Radio New Zealand International Sally Round reports, there was no right answer, but plenty of debate.
Fiji’s first coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka used the military dictionary to describe contrasting foreign policy towards Fiji before and after the latest coup.

SITIVENI RABUKA: When you look at the actions of Australia and New Zealand and some other former friends we had and you look at what China is doing, who is being tactical,who is being strategic?
The Australian High Commissioner in New Zealand, Michael Potts, agreed Canberra, for one, has taken a tactical approach.

MICHAEL POTTS: Australian voters feel quite strongly about the events in Fiji over three decades. So our government naturally feels responsive, I think, to that view, as well. The Chinese, of course, have the advantage of not having general elections every five years. And so they can take a much longer, and in many ways, a much more sophisticated world view.
But Michael Potts says Australia has not turned its back on Fiji.

MICHAEL POTTS: It is very clear we have walked away from the Fiji military. But the notion that we’re walking away from the people of Fiji I think is misplaced. Despite the size of Chinese assistance, Australia is still the largest donor in Fiji. We run close to AUD$40 million a year.

But Sitiveni Rabuka described a strong defence relationship as essential.

SITIVENI RABUKA: Breaking the military link is the worst break because you have lost that contact between offices that you could fall back on when diplomacy fails.

Long-time Fiji-watcher Jon Fraenkel of Wellington’s Victoria University says much of the debate around foreign policy towards Fiji has centred on theories of crude tit-for-tat horse trading. He says other countries’ foreign policies are not the key driver of events in Fiji. But he suggests a foreign policy aimed at promoting democracy should be carefully calibrated. It is often the gradual and indirect approach, he says, which has more influence.

JON FRAENKEL: And often if you look at the experience in Africa, Asia and Latin America, what’s been important is not the sort of direct one-to-one diplomatic challenge, but rather a longer-term filtering upwards of ideas about the connection between legitimacy, popular control and democracy.

The Director of the Centre for Pacific Island Studies at the University of Hawaii, Terence Wesley-Smith, says many assumptions are made about China’s presence in and policy towards Fiji without a lot of research. He says he has yet to find back-up for assertions that China is somehow singling out Fiji for soft loans or bankrolling the regime leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

TERENCE WESLEY-SMITH: If there’s a sin associated with China in Fiji, it’s a sin of omission, meaning that they’re really not doing anything differently. They have continued their relationship with Fiji where others have pulled back from that relationship.

A China foreign policy scholar from Canterbury University, Anne-Marie Brady, had this report from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on its policy towards Fiji.

ANNE-MARIE BRADY: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said to me, ’China does not interfere in the politics of other countries. China’s support of the Bainimarama government is not interference. It’s up to the Fijian people to decide who leads them. If Fiji can maintain political stability it would be good for the region. China wants New Zealand and Australia to understand Fiji’s point of view’.

Anne-Marie Brady reported China does not want Australia and New Zealand to use extreme methods to criticise Fiji.

Ernest Bower of the Washington-based think-tank the Centre for Strategic and International Studies says the US could be more effective in Fiji, but it doesn’t know how.

ERNEST BOWER: I think the United States wants to get it right. They will always stand on the side of democracy, where there’s a coup or where there’s a clear violation of democratic values. There’s not question where the Americans stand on that. We want to see an election, a free and fair election. I think the question is more at a practical policy level - how can you be effective in encouraging that outcome?

Ernest Bower described US policy towards Fiji as a ’work in progress’.



Club Em Designs

Monday, January 28, 2013

X-Post: Strategic Culture -The Pacific Ocean: The Pentagon Next Human Terrain Battlefield

Wayne MADSEN | 27.01.2013 |

The Pentagon planners and their paid anthropologist shills are gearing up for the Pentagon’s next battle: the one for the Pacific that will ensure that the island nations that dot the vast maritime expanse will remain a part of the Anglo-American sphere of influence and not become part of a «Chinese lake».
The Pacific Ocean has been a favorite stomping ground for U.S. government-financed anthropologists ever since Margaret Mead ‘s 1928 treatise on the Samoan people, Coming of Age in Samoa, laid the groundwork for the intelligence-related anthropological study of the peoples of the Pacific Ocean by the U.S. military and intelligence services. Mead later became a researcher for the CIA-connected RAND Corporation and became a supporter of CIA funding of anthropologic surveys and studies via laundered academic research grants from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

USAID / CIA/Special Operations projects with names like Phoenix, Prosyms, Sympatico, and Camelot used anthropologists and social scientists to reconnoiter targeted tribal areas in South Vietnam, Indonesia, Pakistan, Colombia, and Chile to determine how U.S. Special Forces and intelligence agents could use indigenous peoples to further American military goals. The operations in the cases of Phoenix in South Vietnam and Prosyms in Indonesia resulted in genocide on a massive scale…
Today, the military’s tribal and native peoples targeting programs fall under the nomenclature of «human terrain systems» or HTS. Brought back to life in Afghanistan and Iraq, these genocidal programs now have their eyes on the Pacific in order to gear up for what the Pentagon and Langley planners believe is an inevitable war with China.

It is fitting, therefore, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are now looking for up to 15,000 acres of land to lease on American Samoa. The U.S. military wants to establish a major training base on American Samoa for at least five years and probably longer. The base is to provide 24-hour road access that will permit 60 full days of training per year. The Army also wants the base to permit the use of pyrotechnic and blank ammunition during daytime and nighttime training. It is certain that the U.S. is looking at building a simulated rural and village tropical environment for the use of U.S. and future «coalition of the willing» armies to practice battling an enemy in the Pacific region. That «enemy» is China.

The United States obviously foresees the Pacific as a future battleground between American and its allied forces and China for control of the important trade routes that crisscross the vast maritime region. Not since the U.S. military campaign against Japan during World War II has the Pacific seen such an American military projection of power.

The decision by the Obama administration to «pivot» its military forces into Asia and the Pacific has brought about a strong response from China, which sees itself as the ultimate target for the increased U.S. military presence. China’s ambassador to Australia Chen Yuming called the stationing of 2500 U.S. Marines in Darwin an «affront» and a Cold War containment policy toward China.

The establishment of a U.S. military training base on American Samoa follows Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s first ever attendance by a U.S. Secretary of State of a Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) summit in Rarotonga, Cook Islands on August 31, 2012. It was the first such visit to the Cook Islands and underscored America’s decision to maintain its stranglehold over the small Pacific island nations while at the same time beefing up its military forces in the region.

The United States and its two Pacific overseers – Australia and New Zealand –- are attempting to cement their neo-colonialist hegemony over the Pacific states, which are independent in name only. Enter the Human Terrain practitioners from the Pentagon and CIA to keep the Pacific islanders divided. Clinton’s participation in the PIF summit is aimed at not only maintaining the status quo but in promoting the rivalries between Polynesians, Micronesians, and Melanesians among the island states. 

The United States, having virtual ownership of the quasi-independent Micronesian nations of Micronesia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands, as well as total control over the U.S. territories of Guam and the Northern Marianas, can use its influence over Micronesians to play them off against the other two major ethnic groups,. They are the Melanesian Spearhead Group of Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and the New Caledonia (Kanaky) liberation front and the Polynesian Leaders Group of Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau, French Polynesia, as well as the intelligence eyes and ears of Washington, American Samoa. The United States, Australia, and New Zealand can use their Human terrain System knowledge of ethnic rivalries in the Pacific to ensure that China is kept out of the area.

Part of the strategy relies on Taiwan’s «checkbook» diplomacy to maintain Taiwanese rather than Chinese embassies and aid missions in the small island states. There are currently Taiwanese embassies in Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands, Palau, Nauru, and Kiribati. Among these, Nauru, Solomon Islands, and Kiribati switched their recognition back to Taiwan after opening up diplomatic relations with China. Kiribati came under pressure after it decided to allow China to build a missile tracking station on south Tarawa. 

Wayne Madsen


" The United States and its two Pacific overseers – Australia and New Zealand –- are attempting to cement their neo-colonialist hegemony over the Pacific states, which are independent in name only [...]

The CIA, Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO), and New Zealand Secret Intelligence Service (NZSIS) have programs to undermine South Pacific governments that establish close relations with Beijing [...]

Aware of the animosity that poor Pacific Islanders have toward local successful Chinese businessmen, the bought—and-paid for anthropologists have stirred up riots, especially in Solomon Islands and Tonga, to marginalize China’s influence in the region. There are contingency plans to foment riots against ethnic Chinese in Fiji, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea [...]

If Fiji’s military-led government , which has been the subject of diplomatic sanctions by Australia and New Zealand, continues to get close to China and North Korea, these Fijian mercenaries could see coup d’état duty on behalf of the CIA, ASIO, and NZSIS in their homeland of Fiji."

The U.S. believed the China Space Telemetry Tracking Station was going to spy on the «Star Wars II» activity at the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site in the Kwajalein Atoll of the Marshall Islands. The Marshallese on the atoll are under constant surveillance by well-armed U.S. security personnel. In 2004, Vanuatu switched its recognition back to China from Taiwan after Prime Minister Serge Vohor paid a secret visit to Taiwan and was ejected from office in a vote of no confidence. Vohor actually punched the Chinese ambassador after Vohor returned from Taiwan. Such incidents in the Pacific Islands have been known to set off riots between opposing political parties and ethnic groups. The Pentagon will use such politico-ethnic tinderboxes as a secret weapon against China.

The CIA, Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO), and New Zealand Secret Intelligence Service (NZSIS) have programs to undermine South Pacific governments that establish close relations with Beijing. However, the Human Terrain operatives have gone further. Aware of the animosity that poor Pacific Islanders have toward local successful Chinese businessmen, the bought—and-paid for anthropologists have stirred up riots, especially in Solomon Islands and Tonga, to marginalize China’s influence in the region. 

There are contingency plans to foment riots against ethnic Chinese in Fiji, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea. The CIA’s Operation Prosyms in Indonesia relied on longstanding animosity between Muslim Indonesians and ethnic Chinese to stoke riots against the Chinese in the aftermath of the 1965 CIA coup against President Sukarno. The mayhem resulted in the deaths of over 100,000 ethnic Chinese and a severance of relations between the CIA-installed Suharto government and China. President Obama’s anthropologist mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, played a crucial role in Prosyms. Mrs. Dunham’s son appears prepared to reenact anti-Chinese pogroms in the islands of the Pacific.

It is clear that the U.S. military training in American Samoa will be used to train Pacific Islander mercenaries, many of whom, such as Marshall Islanders, American Samoans, and Guamanians already serve in the U.S. military, to train young men from impoverished Kiribati, Micronesia, Samoa, and Fiji. Fijian and Tongan mercenaries, battle-hardened from Western campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other regions, are also available to supplement the U.S. Pacific Command’s training complex on American Samoa. If Fiji’s military-led government , which has been the subject of diplomatic sanctions by Australia and New Zealand, continues to get close to China and North Korea, these Fijian mercenaries could see coup d’état duty on behalf of the CIA, ASIO, and NZSIS in their homeland of Fiji. And the diplomats of the small Chinese embassy in Nuku’alofa, Tonga have witnessed how fast the fury of local Tongans can be turned on the Chinese business community. These blood-soaked scenarios all figure heavily into Pentagon HTS plans for the Pacific.

The United States will continue to keep the Pacific Islands within its vast gulag to prevent the extension of Chinese influence. Today, Pacific Islanders are faced with a virtual «Berlin Wall» that keeps Pacific Islanders confined to their own islands while outsiders, like Chinese and Russians, are kept out. The method by which Washington, Canberra, and Wellington have created airline and sea transit monopolies and transit visa requirements means that Samoans from the Independent State of Samoa cannot visit nearby American Samoa without a special permit. And the U.S. Department of Homeland Security decides who will receive special permits and transit visas, including for those traveling on diplomatic passports. Any scheduled airline that connects any of the islands via American Samoa, Guam, or Hawaii requires a U.S. transit visa and that entails invasive interviews by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel.


There is a reason why so many negotiations and agreement to establish the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership have been secret. As the title indicates, the TPP, as it is known, is a «strategic» trade bloc, which means it also has a military dimension. In essence, it is no different than the Greater East-Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere established by Imperial Japan during World War II. The United States, not wanting to be viewed as starting the bloc but wanting it to be a replacement for the Cold War military alliance, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), sat in the background while New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, and Chile signed up as charter members in 2005. 

As more nations joined, the TPP’s military profile became clearer. The countries that signed up to the TPP were all being groomed for the anti-China military bloc for the Pacific: Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Vietnam, Peru, and the United States signed on. Japan, Thailand, South Korea, the Philippines, Colombia, Costa Rica, Laos, and Taiwan later expressed an interest in joining the TPP. The eastward blockade of China became clear. The United States already had existing military alliances with six of the other ten TPP member nations. From Darwin, Australia and Subic Bay, Philippines to Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam and the U.S. built Mataveri Airport on Easter Island (Rapa Nui), the U.S. was delineating the borders of its own Asia-Pacific Sphere and a line over which China would be warned not to cross.

Mrs. Clinton may have arrived in Rarotonga last year amid waves and smiles but her sinister plans for the Pacific region have more to do with using the Pacific Islanders for cannon fodder in what Washington expects to be a coming regional war with China.


Source: Strategic Culture

Club Em Designs

Sunday, January 27, 2013

X-Post: Island Business - Reconfiguring Regionalism in the Pacific

by Nic Maclellan

Last month, Sir Mekere Morauta launched a new website, calling for public submissions into his review of the Pacific Plan. Over the next eight months, the former Papua New Guinea Prime Minister will lead a team around the region to look at the plan, which is supposed to set priorities for key regional institutions—the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the other members of the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP).

According to the Forum’s Secretary-General Tuiloma Neroni Slade, the review will be “an ambitious scope of work that will involve leaders, officials, and a range of non-state actors from across the region in assessing past performance and mapping out a path ahead.” As a framework for regional co-ordination, the Pacific Plan grew out of a 2004 Forum Eminent Persons Group, which called for a new vision for Pacific regionalism.

However, the resulting policy framework—the 2005 Pacific Plan—was one of the least visionary documents to appear in recent years. It was widely criticised for down-playing issues of culture and gender, and its recommendations often reflected the existing agenda of regional intergovernmental bodies. Morauta’s review comes at a time when there is widespread debate about regional institutions as Pacific governments and communities face a complex range of international challenges.

The regional agenda has broadened, with significant pressures on the region’s institutional architecture. Looking to the year ahead, there are a number of challenges: elections in key states; debates over Fiji’s transition to parliamentary elections in 2014; the challenge of integrating the remaining Pacific territories into Forum activities; and deadlines to review the Millennium Development Goals and regional frameworks on climate, trade and other issues. But just as the agenda gets more complex, there is widespread questioning about whose agenda is driving the regional institutions. How do the Forum Secretariat and other CROP agencies relate to national priorities across a diverse region? Do Australia and New Zealand, as paymasters for the Forum, carry disproportionate influence in its operations? How can churches, women’s groups, customary leaders and young people carry their voice into the regional structures?

Reviewing the Forum 

In recent years, there has been quiet—and not so quiet—criticism of the Forum Secretariat, suggesting that it is not fully engaging with the needs of member states. A comprehensive review of the Forum Secretariat last year by Peter Winder of New Zealand;Tessie Lambourne of Kiribati; and Kolone Vaai of Samoa highlighted competition between CROP member agencies and made a series of recommendations on reforming the Secretariat’s structure, leadership and priorities.

Last August in Rarotonga, Forum leaders deferred action on the Forum Secretariat’s review, agreeing that its recommendations be rolled into the wider review of the Pacific Plan. But ongoing concerns over the Forum Secretariat mean that sub-regional networks are taking on new energy and not only in the larger Pacific countries united in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). For many years, the Small Islands States have caucused before Forum leaders meetings and issued communiques on their particular concerns.

In the Northern Pacific, the Micronesian Chief Executives meetings are slowly expanding, with talk of a new secretariat. Last year also saw the first meeting of the Polynesian Leaders Group (PLG). The idea of a Polynesian bloc within the Forum has been floating around for decades—as France’s Secretary of State for the Pacific in 1986-1988, Gaston Flosse, tried to create a Polynesia sub-group in an attempt to blunt the MSG’s solidarity work with the FLNKS independence movement in New Caledonia.

Now, Samoa has taken the lead, driven in part by Samoan PM Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi’s very public disdain for the Bainimarama regime in Fiji. The Polynesian nations are also seeking to develop common fisheries policies, with the New Zealand-supported Te Vaka Moana initiative, at a time when the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) nations and Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) are perceived to be driving regional policy. At the PLG meeting in Apia last year, there were also invitees from Hawai’i, Rapanui and Aotearoa—the far-flung inhabitants of the Polynesian triangle. Will indigenous peoples living with constrained sovereignty form a stronger part of this new regional network?

PACP and regional trade 

Over the next year, long-running debates over regional trade policy will reach a new tempo. In a major change last November, leaders of the Pacific members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific group (PACP) agreed that Fiji should re-join the fold. All countries of the PACP Group will now participate in all meetings relating to PACP. In a significant shift, Papua New Guinea has offered to host the secretariat of the PACP Leaders meeting—until now, administrative and support services for the PACP have been provided by the Forum Secretariat.

After a battle with the Forum Secretariat over trade policy, the MSG Secretariat in Port Vila already hosts the Office of the Chief Trade Advisor (OCTA). Trade policy has led to extensive critiques of the Forum in recent years, amid perceptions of excessive Australian influence in Suva (not helped when the Forum’s Director of Economic Governance Roman Grynberg was replaced by AusAID’s former trade adviser Chakriya Bowman between 2007 and 2011). Just as OCTA was established to provide independent advice and support in the negotiations of PACER Plus negotiations with Australia and New Zealand, the new PACP Secretariat will eventually provide an alternative source of trade policy advice, especially for negotiations with the European Union (EU).

For years, the Forum has been discussing a comprehensive regional Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU. But the EPA is in trouble, more than five years after it was supposed to be finalised. Once again in 2013, the European Union looks unlikely to seriously address key Pacific concerns in the trade negotiations such as labour mobility and market access for fresh and frozen fish. Inter-islands trade through PICTA has been slow to get off the ground, but the PACER-Plus and EPA processes have largely failed to create innovative trade and development linkages.

The European Commission has a long way to go to engage SIDS leaders, according to Niue Premier Toke Talagi: “There is a degree of frustration on our part at the fact that this agreement has not been signed. There is also suspicion on our side that they may be trying too hard to get all that they want, and there is no degree of compromise in the arrangements we need to put in place.” The revitalisation of PACP in 2013 and new sub-regional initiatives are showing more promise. This year, the MSG Trade Agreement will take on a new life after Papua New Guinea agreed to reduce duties on almost all of its protected goods. PNG’s notoriously protectionist business community now recognise the need for more regional support to enhance the LNG boom with small but growing investment from Fiji.

New spaces to talk 

There are other signs of sub-regional networking. With the signing of an MOU between Fiji, PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, the MSG Skills Movement Scheme is slowly getting off the ground at a time when Australia and New Zealand are focused on seasonal worker programmes. In the education sector, Fiji National University (FNU) and the University of the South Pacific (USP) are discussing extending their operations beyond existing Forum islands countries, to include Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste.

Fiji has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on development cooperation with Kiribati, Tuvalu, Solomon Islands, the Marshall Islands and Nauru. Through the Fiji Volunteer Service, the first 12 teachers headed off to the Marshall Islands last September.

Nick Maclellan

" [A]s the agenda gets more complex, there is widespread questioning about whose agenda is driving the regional institutions. How do the Forum Secretariat and other CROP agencies relate to national priorities across a diverse region? Do Australia and New Zealand, as paymasters for the Forum, carry disproportionate influence in its operations? [...]
But ongoing concerns over the Forum Secretariat mean that sub-regional networks are taking on new energy and not only in the larger Pacific countries united in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG)[...]
Fiji has begun to step away from its historic ties to the Commonwealth and the ANZUS Alliance, and is engaging in more South-South diplomacy[...]
Fiji’s more active diplomacy is also echoed by other Pacific nations, which are also stepping outside old strategic frameworks set by the ANZUS allies [...] "
Former USP economist Dr Wadan Narsey has noted that Papua New Guinea and Fiji’s role in the region’s economic and political life is significant, telling Radio Australia: “The Forum Secretariat is very seriously in danger of being marginalised in the Pacific. I think to some extent when you look at the recent re-admission of Fiji to the Pacific-ACP negotiations, in a way that is a symptom of the fact that the Melanesian countries are not going to allow one of their own to be marginalised from regional and international trade negotiations.”

The Forum is deeply rooted in regional frameworks and has become a focal point for international engagement—highlighted by recent visits to the Forum leaders’ meetings from Ban Ki-Moon, Hillary Clinton, Juan Manuel Barroso and other international dignitaries. But just as islands leaders stepped out of the South Pacific Commission in 1971 to create a forum where they felt free to talk politics, Pacific islands leaders are again seeking spaces where they can address their concerns and visions, without the major powers setting the agenda.

To create a new venue for governments and civil society to meet outside the Forum, Fiji’s Voreqe Bainimarama initiated the “Engaging with the Pacific” meetings in 2010. This year, these meetings will evolve into a new Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF). The PIDF will extend debates about “green growth”, the Pacific Conference of Churches’ “Rethinking Oceania” proposals and work on alternative development indicators, such as “Alternative Indicators of Well-Being for Melanesia” (the 2012 pilot study produced by the Vanuatu National Statistics Office and other government and community representatives).

Over time however, it will be worth watching to see if the PIDF becomes the venue for inter-islands dialogue without Australia and New Zealand in the room (along with all the other official Forum observers like the World Bank, the ADB, the Commonwealth, and the United Nations etc). After the 2012 Rio+20 conference, there’s plenty of work to do this year on environment and development—especially as the Pacific will host the Third Global Conference on Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) in 2014.

Nauru’s President Sprent Arumogo Dabwido has said that “Rio infused new energy into making the islands a model for sustainable development by agreeing to convene the Third Global Conference on SIDS.” But the latest global climate negotiations in Doha have put a damper on hopes for urgent action on global warming. Before the Doha summit, President Dabwido noted: “It is revealing just how much our ambition to address this crisis has been downscaled in just three years. Copenhagen was the conference to save the world. Cancun was the conference to save the process. Durban, it seems, was the conference to save the rest for later.”

Fiji’s foreign affairs 

This year will be a major test for the Bainimarama regime as Forum member countries monitor its progress towards a new Constitution and free and fair elections in 2014. On the domestic front, Fiji faces severe problems, with the declining sugar sector, ongoing rural and urban poverty and the damaging effects of cyclones and flooding.

The Bainimarama regime is widely condemned for harassment of trade union leaders and restrictions on union rights. Relations with the independent commission to develop a new Fiji Constitution have been fraught. But on the international stage, the post-coup regime in Fiji has begun to transform the country’s foreign policy. In the last few years, Fiji has begun to step away from its historic ties to the Commonwealth and the ANZUS Alliance, and is engaging in more South-South diplomacy. The signs are everywhere.

In April 2011, Fiji joined the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and in recent years has established diplomatic relations with a range of key developing nations—from Indonesia, South Africa and Brazil, to Iran, Cuba, North Korea—and, of course, China. Passing through Beijing last year, Fiji’s foreign minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola stated: “We appreciate China’s position on South-South co-operation and its decision to provide funding to Fiji through bilateral mechanisms and not through the Pacific Islands Forum’s Cairns Compact. “This funding option is more effective and really addresses the real needs of the people.”

Not everyone is sure these changes will last. In a December 2012 essay in the journal Security Challenges, Fiji historian Brij Lal argues that “these are short-sighted and eventually counterproductive diplomatic games Fiji is playing with no serious expectation of any far-reaching benefits.” Lal, one of the co-authors of Fiji’s 1997 Constitution, says: “Perhaps all these new initiatives will be allowed quietly to relapse once Fiji returns to parliamentary democracy,and once no benefits are seen to derive from them.” However, there is evidence that Fiji’s role in the Group of Asia and Pacific Small Islands Developing States at the United Nations is coming up with results.

Last September, Fiji was nominated by the UN’s Asia-Pacific group to chair the “Group of 77 and China” for the duration of 2013. This is the first time in nearly 50 years a Pacific country has led this developing country network (with 132 members, the G77 is the largest intergovernmental organisation of developing countries in the United Nations.) In part, Fiji’s diplomatic tensions with Canberra and Wellington are driving its links to China and the developing world. But they are also a reflection of emerging strategic shifts on a global scale, at a time when China, India, Korea and other countries are transforming global economics and politics.

New friends 

Fiji’s more active diplomacy is also echoed by other Pacific nations, which are also stepping outside old strategic frameworks set by the ANZUS allies. Seeking to link Pacific states with the dynamism of Asia, many Forum member countries are looking north (indeed, last October, the Gillard government released the “Australia in the Asian Century” White Paper, a road map showing “how Australia can be a winner in the Asian century”.)

At the 2012 Cooks’ Forum, Premier Talagi of Niue told the Chinese news agency Xinhua: “From Niue’s perspective, we’re very happy that China’s in the Pacific. I don’t believe that China’s incursions into the Pacific should be seen as a negative thing. I see it as a very positive thing and I have also heard US President Obama say the same thing.” As we move into 2013, new leaders in Beijing and Tokyo will review their policies towards the region (though the conservative Shinzo Abe government in Japan, elected in December 2012, will likely turn back the clock on nuclear and fisheries policies).

The United States too is turning to the Asia-Pacific region, with the Obama administration’s Pacific Pivot, including the Forum Islands countries. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won plaudits for her appearance at the 2012 Forum leaders meeting (although she will leave the post in 2013, with Senator John Kerry the front runner as her replacement). Beyond the obvious delight of Forum islands leaders that the United States is paying attention again, there are still a number of issues where there are fundamental policy differences with Washington, on climate change, decolonisation, maritime boundaries and the renewal of a key tuna deal with the islands.

The Obama administration has yet to persuade the US Congress to increase compensation for the health and environmental impacts of 67 atomic and hydrogen bombs tested at Bikini and Enewetak atolls in the Marshall Islands—an issue that will be high on the agenda when Majuro hosts the Forum leaders’ meeting later this year.

Integrating the territories 

Since its founding in 1971, Forum membership has been limited to Australia, New Zealand and the independent islands nations. In contrast, other CROP agencies like SPREP and SPC include all the countries and territories as well as colonial powers like France and the United States. In the original 2005 Pacific Plan, the status of the non-self-governing territories was largely ignored, with action plans relegated to the footnotes.

This silence on decolonisation is belied by the steady integration of the remaining French and US Pacific colonies into Forum activities. After the 1998 Noumea Accord, New Caledonia and then French Polynesia gained observer status at the Forum. Both were upgraded to associate members at the 2006 meeting in Apia, where Wallis and Futuna was also introduced as an observer. In Auckland in 2011, the Forum also gave approval for the US dependencies—the territories of Guam and American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the North Marianas—to obtain observer status. They attended the Forum meeting for the first time in Rarotonga last year. The names are different—associate member, special observer, observer—but fundamentally the US and French dependencies are all in the room (apart from the annual leaders retreat).

This trend will continue in the coming year, but the renewed engagement across colonial boundaries opens new debates about the criteria for full membership of the Forum. As the team led by PNG’s Morauta conducts its review of the Pacific Plan over next year, the long-term status of the territories remains a difficult issue.

Last year, Australia’s Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Islands Affairs Richard Marles told ISLANDS BUSINESS that Australia now supported New Caledonia becoming a full member of the Pacific Islands Forum, even before the French colony makes a final decision on its political future after 2014. Marles said: “We would support New Caledonia’s full membership of the Forum now, in terms of Australia’s position.

But in saying that, we acknowledge that we’re just one member and for New Caledonia to become a full member of the Forum, it may need to win the support of the majority of Forum members. “My observation is that they’re a fair way off doing that at the moment…We see that New Caledonia is an important member of the Pacific family and that full membership of the Forum is supported by all political elements in New Caledonia, as it is supported by France itself.”

For many people, it’s timely that the US and French territories are now closer to the Forum, which remains the key inter-governmental organisation concerned with political and security issues in the region. But as barriers to participation at Forum events are lowered, does this mean that the region still supports the call for self-determination amongst indigenous communities in Guam, New Caledonia, French Polynesia and beyond? Or will improving regional ties with France and the United States re-affirm the colonial status quo?

A year for the French Pacific

The call for self-determination and independence will again be highlighted this year if Oscar Temaru, the current President of French Polynesia, is re-elected in the March 2013 elections. The MSG will also hold its annual leaders meeting in New Caledonia in mid-2013, with the FLNKS taking up the rotating chair of the Melanesian bloc at a crucial time (elections for New Caledonia’s Provincial Assemblies and Congress in 2014 will determine the balance of forces for any subsequent decision on the territory’s future political status, scheduled between 2014-2018).

Last August, at the same time Clinton was attending the Forum meeting in Rarotonga, Fiji’s Foreign Kubuabola was in Tehran, attending the 16th summit of the NAM. Recognising Fiji’s role on the UN Special Committee for Decolonisation, the summit communique stated: “The Heads of State or Government affirmed the inalienable right of the people of French Polynesia—Maohi Nui to self-determination in accordance with Chapter XI of the Charter of the United Nations and the UN General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV).”

A month after the Rarotonga Forum, the leaders of Samoa, Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu lined up at the UN General Assembly to publicly support French Polynesia’s right to self-determination, explicitly called for action on decolonisation. As Samoa celebrated its 50th anniversary of independence from New Zealand, Samoa’s Tuilaepa told the UN General Assembly: “Half a century later, there still remain territories today even in our Pacific region where people have not been able to exercise their right of self-determination. “In the case of French Polynesia, we encourage the metropolitan power and the territory’s leadership together with the support of the United Nations to find an amicable way to exercise the right of the people of the territory to determine their future.”

French Polynesia’s President Temaru will continue to seek support from Pacific states for French Polynesia’s bid for re-inscription at the United Nations, even though the August 2012 meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum re-affirmed the Australian and New Zealand position, calling for further dialogue between Paris and Papeete. Given the Forum’s policy, the MSG will play an increasing role on this issue. The MSG sent a mission to New Caledonia in July 2012 to monitor the progress of the implementation of the Noumea Accord, and subsequently establish an FLNKS Unit within the MSG Secretariat, to act on initiatives that in the past were undertaken by the Forum Secretariat.

The commemoration of the MSG’s 25th anniversary, to be held in New Caledonia in June, symbolises the links across colonial boundaries. The issue of nationalism and statehood across Melanesia will soon be bumped up the regional agenda by a coincidence of events. After Congressional elections in 2014, New Caledonia is scheduled to hold a referendum on its political status between 2014-2018.

At the same time Bougainville is coming to the end of its 10-year autonomy transition under an autonomous government. As well as New Caledonia, Fiji and Indonesia are scheduled to hold elections in 2014—with both countries vital for the future of Melanesian stability. By 2015, countries must decide whether to sign on to a global climate treaty, and the development agenda to replace the Millennium Development Goals. This year is a time for reflection and review – and after that, there’s a lot to do.


Source: Islands Business

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

X-Post: Stop NATO - Pentagon Eyes More Military Bases In Australia


Source:  Stop NATO
November 13, 2012 

News Analysis: U.S. eyes Australian military bases
By Christian Edwards Xinhua News Agency
====
A U.S. presence in the Pacific has been the bedrock of Australia’s security posture, and in return Australia has participated in every one of the U.S. foreign military adventures, from the Korea Peninsula, through Vietnam into Iraq, the “war on terror” and Afghanistan. By 2016 there will be 2,500 U.S. marines at Darwin, U.S. air force elements based in Katherine, and an increased presence in Australian ports.
In an unnerving development the Gillard government is reportedly considering making the Cocos Islands available to the U. S. as a base for both drones and troops.
“The Americans wanted Australian soldiers in Iraq, and they got it. They wanted a defense trade controls treaty that shackles Australian research, and they got it. They wanted marines based at Darwin, and they got it.
“We suspect they want an expanded presence at HMAS Stirling naval base, access to air bases in the north of WA, and basing facilities for drones in the Indian Ocean – what’s next?”
====
PERTH: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is now in Western Australia’s capital Perth for an important annual Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultation (AUSMIN). Tonight Australian and U.S. officials dine in the splendor of a state reception, tomorrow Clinton and Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr will meet to ponder the future of the alliance of Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

Since 1951, the Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty, or the ANZUS Treaty, has bound these two countries (far better than ANZUS has bound New Zealand) in military and strategic mutual arrangements. A U.S. presence in the Pacific has been the bedrock of Australia’s security posture, and in return Australia has participated in every one of the U.S. foreign military adventures, from the Korea Peninsula, through Vietnam into Iraq, the “war on terror” and Afghanistan.

Officially, the U.S. describes these so-called AUSMIN talks, held annually since 1985, as “a valuable opportunity for Australian and U.S. officials to discuss a wide range of global, regional and bilateral issues.” Unofficially it is difficult to know exactly what the U.S. wants out of Australia and even less about how it will set about getting it.

Undeniably it has been an exciting year for the moveable feast that is the Australia-U.S. military relationship.
President Barack Obama’s announcement in Canberra last November of the stationing (or “rotation” as Carr emphasized to Xinhua at the time) of 2,500 U.S. marines in Darwin caught analysts off guard. Suddenly and startlingly for Australia, the U.S. shifted its strategic gaze from the Middle East to the Asia Pacific and has begun to scratch the growing itch produced of the rise of the twin superpowers in China and India.

AUSMIN 2012 will be an opportunity for the Americans to get down to brass tacks on Obama’s “pivot to Asia,” and what it means for an Australia looking to strengthen ties with its neighbors in the “Asian Century”.
Peter Jennings, executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, says it will be money or the lack of it in Australia’s defense policy that will be foremost in the mind of Clinton and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

According to Jennings, “Based on recent visits to the U.S., I can confirm that a wide range of current and previous administration officials and others watching the relationship are worried about Australian policy.”
“Americans are dismayed that there has been such a quick reversal of Australian defense spending plans from 2009 to now,” he said. Jennings suggests that the U.S. is worried about the tone of Australian commentary, led by analysts like Professor Hugh White who has championed the concept of shared power within the Asia Pacific by the U.S. and China.“They worry about Australian commentary saying we should distance ourselves from the U.S. in order to get closer to China and are concerned that the Asian Century White Paper, with its cursory treatment of the U.S., is a big step in that direction.”

There is good reason for hesitation in Australia. Despite a Lowy Institute Poll that almost three quarters of Australians were in favor of U.S. military deployments in Darwin, there is concern that such a deployment could become a slippery slope. By 2016 there will be 2,500 U.S. marines at Darwin, U.S. air force elements based in Katherine, and an increased presence in Australian ports.

Just three months ago, Australia’s Defense Minister Stephen Smith found himself deflecting reports of a U.S. nuclear carrier fleet basing in Perth. Last month, it was revealed that an unmanned American Global Hawk spy drone had been flying in and out of the Royal Australian Air Force base at Edinburgh in South Australia since 2001.In an unnerving development the Gillard government is reportedly considering making the Cocos Islands available to the U. S. as a base for both drones and troops. Australia’s neighbors have so far chosen not to respond to what is clearly a growing U.S. military presence Down Under.

When President Obama announced the use of Darwin as a training base for U.S. marines, Chinese and Indonesian officials expressed dismay, citing that such a build up could easily trigger a regional “circle of mistrust and tension”. Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa called for “transparency of what the scenario being envisaged is”.

The problem for Australia is that the true nature, extent and objectives of the U.S. “pivot to Asia” are largely unknown. Like the Hawk spy drone operating in Australian territory for over a decade, negotiations are held in secrecy and little has been made public about what Prime Minister Julia Gillard described as the ” medium-term cooperation on ships and aviation.”

The Australian Greens today demanded the release of the legal agreement underpinning the increased U.S. military presence in Australia. Australian Greens spokesperson assisting on defense, Senator for Western Australia (WA) Scott Ludlam, said that U.S.-Australian defense deals were oblique and had been “a one-way street” for too long. “The Americans wanted Australian soldiers in Iraq, and they got it. They wanted a defense trade controls treaty that shackles Australian research, and they got it. They wanted marines based at Darwin, and they got it,” he said. “We suspect they want an expanded presence at HMAS Stirling naval base, access to air bases in the north of WA, and basing facilities for drones in the Indian Ocean – what’s next?”

Ludlum said the 2010 deal that outlines the rights, role, and responsibilities of U.S. forces in Australia is “being kept secret ” from the Australian public. “For two years the government denied it existed, now they won’t tell the Australian people what’s in it,” he said. “The agreement that governs this militarization is to be withheld, presumably until such time as it is leaked in the public interest – it’s an extraordinary insult to Australian sovereignty. “

Meanwhile Defense Minister Stephen Smith will be preparing to face some tough questions from Clinton and her team when the AUSMIN discussions begin in Perth on Nov. 14. According to Peter Jennings, the Australians will be expected to do their bit. “Although they may not bluntly say so, many of the Americans knowledgeable about Australia think that we are ‘off the reservation’ on strategic policy right now,” he said.

With the release in Australia of the Asian Century White Paper last month, Australian officials may not have too much of an appetite at tonight’s state reception – between the concerns of their neighbors, the Australian public and an American ally determined to ensure things go their way in the Asia Pacific there is very little room for compromise.

More information: 
SMH article
US Secretary Of State speech at Perth USASIA Centre

Club Em Designs

Thursday, November 08, 2012

X-Post: The Australian - Asian Century's Tunnel Vision

RICHARD HERR and ANTHONY BERGIN
Source: The Australian
6 November 2012

The government's white paper on Australia in the Asian Century displays an extraordinary tunnel vision in its focus on the "Asian-ness" of the Asian Century. This narrow view will prove more revealing to Australia's Pacific island neighbours than Canberra could, or should, have intended. There's not a single substantive reference to our critical security interests in our near neighbourhood, not even in passing. This sends an odd message to the Pacific islands: they also want to participate in the Asian century.

At a minimum, the Pacific islands might have rated a mention as a sensitive outlet for some of the excess energy from Asia's economic and geo-political dynamism. Certainly the key Asian players have not shared the white paper's myopia in overlooking the importance of Australia's small island neighbours. Asia is increasingly interested in Pacific resources, particularly the region's tuna stocks, the richest in the world.
Given the overwhelming economic focus of the white paper, Papua New Guinea might have expected some notice: PNG's world-class resources of copper, gold and natural gas are of significant interest to Asian investors, as well serving to some extent as a competitor to Australian minerals in Asian markets.


Richard Herr & Anthony Bergin


" There's not a single substantive reference to our critical security interests in our near neighbourhood, not even in passing. This sends an odd message to the Pacific islands: they also want to participate in the Asian century [...]

A national Institute for Pacific Islands Studies would refresh the focus on our neighbours and their relations both with us and Asia. "
The security stakes in PNG were raised significantly last year when Hillary Clinton declared the US to be in strategic competition with China, and she underscored US interest by attending this year's Pacific Islands Forum. China seeks to downplay the competition aspect publicly, but it very much wants to preserve and extend its options in the Pacific islands region.

Chairman Wu Bangguo, China's top legislator, recently paid a five day visit to Fiji as part of a swing through Asia to reassure a number of states that the forthcoming change in the Chinese leadership would not portend a change in policy toward them. He made a point of condemning the bullying of Fiji by members of the international community, with a finger pointed implicitly, but clearly at Australia.

In a remarkable symbolic demonstration that Asia wants the Pacific islands included in their Asian century, the UN's Asian group, under Chinese leadership, changed its name last year to include the Pacific islands.
While there's lots in the paper on the need for Asian literacy, there's no mention of the fact that there's very limited teaching programs on the Pacific islands at Australian schools and universities. A national Institute for Pacific Islands Studies would refresh the focus on our neighbours and their relations both with us and Asia.

Economic integration in Asia cannot be compartmentalised from Australia's economic integration with the Pacific islands, especially with those of Melanesia. Our island neighbours are pursuing their own take on the Asian century, with new and expanding relationships with China, ASEAN, Russia and India.
It would be more than a pity if their vision of the Asian century and ours took Australia and the Pacific on separate paths.

Richard Herr and Anthony Bergin are co-authors of Our near abroad: Australia and Pacific islands regionalism, Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

Club Em Designs

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Top-level Chinese delegation visits Fiji

A four-day top level Chinese delegation by visited Fiji late last month in an effort to strengthen relations with the small Pacific island state and to counter efforts by the Obama administration to undermine Beijing’s influence in the region. (Read more)

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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