Foreign Policy Blogs

America and China Cold War in South China Sea and Thailand Illiberal Democracy


Secretary of State Clinton in Vietnam

Indonesia: As speculated about  previously, the U.S. will upgrade its support to the Indonesian military, even the notorious Kopassus.  This is in spite of continued human rights concerns, because the need of America to be able to contain China’s expansion into the South China Sea is becoming critical to the Obama Administration.  It is likely these new ties will grow into a formal strategic partnership, as the U.S. also wants Indonesia to be part of an informal containment alliance, along with Japan, India, Australia, Vietnam, and Malaysia.  Secondarily, it is also in America’s interests to aid Indonesia in its  effort to destroy Jihadi terrorist networks in who use the vastness of the Indonesian archipelago to plan and train for terrorist attacks throughout the region.  As said in the previous post, Indonesia’s ability to provide security internally is weak, let alone in international waters.  America has a lot of work to do to shore up Indonesia’s capacity.

“Imagine, they say, a stretch of land covering the distance from Seattle to New York, or Lisbon to Moscow. And then imagine having fewer than 100 police cars responsible for patrolling that entire area — to respond to emergencies and protect national borders.”

The air-force is not in much better shape with 220 air-crafts, some of which were made in the 1960’s.”

South China Sea: As discussed before, Vietnam, probably more than any nation in Southeast Asia, likely due to it’s proximity to and history with China, has been taking an active stance against Chinese territorial claims in the  South China Sea.  Vietnam has even been involved in violent military conflict over this issue, where they have been on the losing side.  Lately Hanoi has been trying to internationalize the issue, in order to even the playing field.  It seems that Vietnam’s prayers have been answered by the United States.   The View from Taiwan blog has done a good write up on this, but as stated before, take it with a grain of salt, as the blog is clear about it’s anti-Mainland China bias.  The U.S. not only took an indirect shot at China, but recent military exercises in the region and criticism of China’s allies North Korea and Myanmar has given a clear signal that the U.S. will continue to be actively engaged in the region, something the Obama administration promised last year.

The administration’s decision to get involved appeared to catch China flat-footed and angered its foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, at a time when the country is already on edge over naval exercises the United States and South Korea will hold starting this weekend off the Korean Peninsula.

Twelve of the 27 countries at the security meeting spoke out in favor of a new approach to the South China Sea, prompting Mr. Yang to observe that the American effort seemed orchestrated.

International concern has been deepening about China’s maritime ambitions, which have expanded with its economic and military muscle. China raised tensions with Vietnam this year with plans to develop tourism in one of the island groups, the Paracels, which the two nations fought over in 1974 before China assumed full control. They had another lethal clash in 1988 over the Spratly island group.

In recent months, administration officials said, China has harassed fishing boats and leaned on energy companies that have tried to make offshore deals with other countries.

Thailand: Since the last post regarding Thailand, things have calmed on the streets in Bangkok, even if there is still rumbling below the surface among certain class in Bangkok and the Red Shirt heartland of the north.  Weeks into Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s supposed “national reconciliation”, it appears his definition of ‘reconciliation” is  a  “limited – martial law” – which authorizes the government to arrest and intimidate all opposition, censor free speech, and under take other forms of soft authoritarianism to dissuade decent. Not that Abhisit is becoming an autocrat;  no, this is a conspiracy  approved of by the Thai oligarchy, which includes the Bangkok ruling political class, the military, and the crown.  None of this is should be surprising.  This type of top down political authority is part and parcel of Thai political history and culture.  The real question is will it continue to remain so?