October 15, 2017

Australia unsure how ‘assertive’ China will act, Penny Wong says


Shadow foreign affairs minister says Australia needs to ‘understand China, its motives and its mindsets’

Paul Karp


Monday 16 October 2017 04.33 BSTLast modified on Monday 16 October 2017 05.29 BST

Australia does not “fully know” how an increasingly assertive China will use its power, Penny Wong has warned in a speech pledging to safeguard Australia’s sovereignty while accepting China as a global player.

The defence and security communities must be “on the lookout for threats” as government and business expand the trade relationship with China, the Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman told the Australian Institute of International Affairs in Canberra on Monday.

But Wong warned that discussion about China was “vulnerable … to infection with undertones of race and alienation”, citing One Nation’s “dystopian rhetoric” as an example.

Malcolm Turnbull backs Trump on North Korea: 'We are of one mind'


Read more

Wong said Australia must “understand China, its motives and its mindsets” because “we don’t yet know how its pursuit of a more ambitious agenda will play out globally” nor “how China intends to condition its use of power”.


“China is becoming more assertive, and more inclined not only to demand a place at the table, but also a say in which table and what design,” she said.

Wong said that Australia should work with China “to encourage it to play the positive role it is capable of in supporting and furthering regional stability and security”.

Wong said Australia must afford China the “priority it merits”, including by not remaining “defiantly monolingual”, instead committing to ramp up study of Mandarin.

Wong encouraged greater integration of economic and security policy, noting that China’s belt and road initiative was an example where assessment purely on strategic implications could see Australia “missing out on its potential” but a “purely economic approach ignores our own strategic interests”.

She announced that, in addition to engagement at the head of government and ministerial level, Labor would “considerably expand” engagement between the senior public service, not just in defence and foreign affairs but “in particular the Treasury” and other departments with ongoing business in China.

She noted proposals for an independent Australia-China commission, and said Labor would give “serious consideration” to the idea.


Wong said that at times China’s strategic objectives and its “long-term vision of its own place in the world” conflicted with the regional rules-based order, citing the South China Sea as an example.

In 2016 the permanent court of arbitration in The Hague ruled that China had no historical title over the South China Sea.

The Turnbull government has stressed the need for China to respect the binding ruling and the sovereignty of smaller nations, contributing to warnings from Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, that Australia must not “take sides” as occurred in the Cold War.

Earlier, in her speech at the same event, the foreign minister rejected the view Australia was “taking sides” by insisting China and the Philippines respect the international court’s decision. Julie Bishop warned the international rules-based order was “under strain, even fraying” as some nations sought to bend or break the rules for “short-term gain”.

She cited North Korea’s defiance of United Nations security council resolutions as the “most egregious” example.


Bishop said while the US would be the “only global superpower into the foreseeable future”, in the next 10 years – the time covered by the forthcoming foreign affairs white paper – Asia’s combined military spending would match the US’s.

In that time, she warned Australia could fall out of the world’s top 20 economies; it is projected to be overtaken by Indonesia, Pakistan and Thailand.

Bishop noted many territorial disagreements involved Asia’s great powers, citing China’s maritime disputes with five south-east Asian states including the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam, the dispute over the Senkaku Islands (also known as the Diaoyu Islands) with Japan and a land border dispute with India.

Wong said the world was in a period of disruption characterised by “unpredictable political events, re-emergent nationalism, the increasing challenge to democracy as the most effective form of political participation, worsening economic inequality” and a challenge to the international rules-based order.

China was part of that disruption and through economic growth had achieved “a standing as a world power that would once have only been possible through military power”, she said.

Wong argued Australia’s long-term relationship with China would be developed not “at the expense of our relationship with the US” but rather to a “very significant extent” because of that relationship.

She said the Anzus treaty between Australia and the US not only underpinned Australia’s security but “is a key contributor to the peace, stability and security of our region”, rejecting both the view of US regional treaties as an attempt to “contain” China and any suggestion China needed to be contained.

“What Australia, China and the US are looking for is a convergence, as far as is practicable, of our individual national interests in Asia, locating those interests within a rules-based order.”

Coal in decline: Adani in question and Australia out of step


Read more

Wong argued that China’s long-term interests were enhanced by stability, and that Australia could navigate a path guided by its own national interests rather than treating China and the US as competitors engaged in a “binary relationship

OBOR's geopolitical significance for the EU

Excerpt from report

OBOR's geostrategic significance for the EU

Improving infrastructure along the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt has the potential to contribute to economic development and regional stability in Eurasia from which both China and the EU could benefit in terms of new markets and energy security. OBOR thus opens opportunities for the EU to pursue its geostrategic ambitions in Central Asia by deepening the EU-China strategic partnership through cooperation in
non-traditional security fields, possibly paving the way to EU-Russia reconciliation. The maritime trajectory of OBOR will sooner or later require the EU to take a more outspoken position on maritime disputes in the South China Sea in favour of an international rules-based order.

If OBOR is considered to be 'the most ambitious infrastructure-based security initiative in the world today', it may be argued that it could be advantageous for the EU to consider how its existing policy tools and strategies, such as the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and the EU Maritime Security Strategy, could be linked with OBOR and how this strategic alignment could feed into the EU's new Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy which came out on 29 June 2016.

OBOR's geopolitical significance for the EU

OBOR-induced investment and trade relations between China and countries in hEurasia, Africa and the Middle East are likely to result in China's growing political and economic leverage on these countries. What impact this will have on the EU's long-term geopolitical, economic and geostrategic interests will also depend on whether the EU
responds to OBOR with one voice and coordinated policies.

Until recently, China's infrastructure investment in Europe targeted individual EU countries such as Greece and the 16+1 group rather than the EU as a block. This has led to concerns about China's investment strategy pursuing 'divide and rule tactics' capitalising on the lack of a common EU strategy – as evidenced by the past lack of consultation at EU level as regards the AIIB accession of a total of 14 EU Member States – and EU Member States' propensity to privilege their bilateral ties with China. However, China's strong interest in investing in EU connectivity initiatives and in seeking
synergies between them and OBOR, as voiced at the 2015 EU-China summit, could be a turning point. With the launch of the EU-China Connectivity Platform, the EU has created a common framework for European cooperation with China on OBOR with a view to defining cooperation strategies, plans and policies and to clarifying the rules and principles governing joint projects including governance and rule of law issues. As OBOR is a 'moving concept', it provides the EU with an opportunity to take part in shaping the
agenda jointly with China and deepen EU-China relations.

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a source of regional tensions, warns US War College expert


China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a source of regional tensions, warns US War College expert

ANI | Last Updated: Sunday, October 15, 2017 11:33 AM IST

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor or the CPEC is going to further escalate regional tensions according to an expert who has served with the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army's War College in Washington, DC.

Washington: The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor or the CPEC is going to further escalate regional tensions according to an expert who has served with the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army's War College in Washington, DC.

Dr. Robert G. Darius, a former research professor at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College, said, "The CPEC passing through disputed areas is not only vulnerability, but an additional source of regional tension, which is not needed in an already tensed and unstable area of the world, where India is the only bastion of democracy and stability." 

In his assessment the CPEC could be a trigger point for a regional flare up as it`s infrastructure passed over land which is disputed and is claimed by India to be part of the undivided state of Jammu and Kashmir.

This assessment by a former expert associated with the U.S. War College is important as it follows comments made by the U.S. Defence Secretary James Mattis who had indicated that the U.S. Could not support the CPEC as it passed over disputed territory. 

The U.S. Had also refrained from backing the One Road, One Belt summit held in Beijing as U.S. Government maintains that the World needs multiple belts and multiple roads to integrate rather than one Belt and Road. The U.S and China do not agree on CPEC and this assessment by Dr Robert Darius is a stark reminder of the consequences of CPEC which South Asia could face if China continues with building infrastructure over the disputed land of Gilgit - Baltistan.

The views of Dr Robert Darius have been endorsed by Josephine Derks, senior research analyst at the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS), a think-tank based in Amsterdam. 
Josephine Derks said " No longer can the international community turn a blind eye to the fact that the CPEC is running through a disputed territory, namely Gilgit Baltistan, a region legally part of the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir. Nor can one ignore the fact that Gilgit Baltistan does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Therefore, this Corridor serve as a breach of International law and Pakistan`s own Constitution."

Ms Derks added, "The abundant natural resources of Gilgit Baltistan, such as gold, copper, coal, iron and silver, will be exploited for the construction of this mega-project, while the people of Gilgit Baltistan will be heavily affected by the creation of this economic corridor, yet they have been excluded from any say in this project, indicating that the opinion of the indigenous people of the region are not taken into account." 

October 14, 2017

U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is obsolete

U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is obsolete

by LAWRENCE SELLIN, PHD October 14, 2017

U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votel, head of Central Command, believes that military pressure will force the Taliban to negotiate:

"That's what the object is here is, to use the military pressure to bring them to the table and enhance the efforts, not only diplomatically but regionally, focused on bringing this to some kind of a political negotiation settlement and some kind of peace discussion that takes place."

It is Vietnam déjà vu.

In his October 5, 1964 memorandum "How Valid Are the Assumptions Underlying Our Vietnam Policy," Undersecretary of State George Ball posed several questions about the deteriorating political and military situation in South Vietnam, among them:

"Can we, by military pressure against North Vietnam, persuade the Hanoi Government to stop Viet Cong action in the South or at least reduce that action to the point where the Viet Cong insurgency becomes manageable? If complete military victory is not possible, can we, by military pressure against North Vietnam, at least improve our bargaining position to the point where an acceptable negotiated solution might be achieved?"

North Vietnam was, for decades, deeply committed to its policy of annexation of South Vietnam and repeatedly insisted it would only negotiate on the basis of a U.S. withdrawal.

The Taliban are deeply committed to controlling Afghanistan and have also stated it would only negotiate on the basis of a U.S. and NATO withdrawal.

The Paris Peace Accords, officially known as the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam, was signed on January 27, 1973. Twenty-seven months later, North Vietnam overran South Vietnam.

After a negotiated settlement, I expect the Afghanistan government to fall to the Taliban within twelve months of a U.S. and NATO withdrawal.

The Taliban have four major operational headquarters in Pakistan covering the entire border with Afghanistan; Peshawar, Miran Shah (Haqqani), Quetta and northeast of Dalbandin. There are literally hundreds of recruiting, training and financial centers feeding into those headquarters with thousands of Afghans being educated in Taliban-influenced religious schools.

It is actually Pakistan with whom the U.S. should be negotiating because Pakistan oversees that vast Taliban infrastructure as well as controls the supply routes to our troops in land-locked Afghanistan.

And Pakistan wants the U.S. and NATO out of Afghanistan because it has other plans, but Islamabad is willing to let us bleed a bit more to improve their bargaining position with the Chinese.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is part of China's larger Belt and Road Initiative, aims to connect Asia through land-based and maritime economic zones. CPEC is an infrastructure project, the backbone of which is a transportation network connecting China to the Pakistani seaports of Gwadar and Karachi located on the Arabian Sea.

But CPEC is more than a commercial initiative. It is one element of China's strategy to overtake the U.S. as the world's foremost superpower. A humiliating defeat for the U.S. in Afghanistan would eliminate significant American influence in the region for at least a generation.

Huge tracks of land in Gwadar have been allocated to the Chinese for port and naval facility development as well as expansion of the international airport to handle heavy cargo flights. Surveying and soil sampling have been done by Chinese engineers along the Dasht River near the Iranian border. In the past weeks, high level talks between the Pakistanis and Iranians, sometimes with the participation of the Chinese, have taken place, most likely involving security, construction and resource use, particularly fresh water.

The Chinese are also investigating other sites along Pakistan's Makran coast including potential naval facilities in the Kalmat-Ormara area. The Chinese have visited and bought land in Sonmiani, which houses Pakistan's spaceport and space research center as well as a planned liquid natural gas terminal.

Chinese military control of Pakistan's Makran coast would allow Beijing to dominate vital sea lanes leading to the Persian Gulf and link to the Chinese base in Djibouti at the entrance of the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, both strategic choke points.

Withdrawal of the U.S. and NATO from Afghanistan would also allow China to exploit that country's estimated $3 trillion in untapped mineral resources, in addition to Balochistan's $1 trillion in gold, copper, oil, precious stones, coal, chromite and natural gas. 

It is unlikely that the Afghanistan strategy currently being pursued by the Trump Administration will produce either military victory or create the conditions by which a negotiated settlement favorable to the U.S. can be obtained.

That is because the strategy was designed more to match the contents of the U.S. Army Counterinsurgency Manual FM 3-24 than reflect reality on the ground.

In 1964, George Ball asked a question about Vietnam policy that is applicable to the Trump Administration's "new" Afghanistan strategy:

"Are we proposing action against the North [in Afghanistan] because we are reasonably confident it will, in fact, work, or merely because we are becoming reasonably confident that the present course of action will not work and we are not able to think of anything else to do?"

There are alternatives to fighting the last war.

Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a retired colonel with 29 years of service in the US Army Reserve and a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq. Colonel Sellin is the author of "Restoring the Republic: Arguments for a Second American Revolution ". He receives email at lawrence.sellin@gmail.com.