Page 1

STRATEGIC VISION Volume 5, Issue 26


April, 2016

for Taiwan Security w

ISSN 2227-3646

Mongolian Balance Between Russia and China Oyuntsetseg Densmaa

Sino-Japanese Ties and the Burden of History Amrita Jash

Taiwan’s Defense Focus Masahiro Matsumura

South China Sea Tensions Mark Valencia

North Korean Stability Dean Karalekas


for Taiwan Security

Volume 5, Issue 26


April, 2016

Contents Mongolian balance between China and Russia..............................4

Oyuntsetseg Densmaa

History complicates Sino-Japanese ties......................................... 9

Amrita Jash

Japan’s history and lessons for Taiwan.......................................... 13

Masahiro Matsumura

US raising tensions in South China Sea........................................ 18

Mark Valencia

Prospects for stability after North Korea Congress......................23

Dean Karalekas

Submissions: Essays submitted for publication are not to exceed 2,000 words in length, and should conform to the following basic format for each 1200-1600 word essay: 1. Synopsis, 100-200 words; 2. Background description, 100-200 words; 3. Analysis, 800-1,000 words; 4. Policy Recommendations, 200-300 words. Book reviews should not exceed 1,200 words in length. Notes should be formatted as endnotes and should be kept to a minimum. Authors are encouraged to submit essays and reviews as attachments to emails; Microsoft Word documents are preferred. For questions of style and usage, writers should consult the Chicago Manual of Style. Authors of unsolicited manuscripts are encouraged to consult with the executive editor at xiongmu@gmail.com before formal submission via email. The views expressed in the articles are the personal views of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of their affiliate institutions or of Strategic Vision. Manuscripts are subject to copyediting, both mechanical and substantive, as required and according to editorial guidelines. No major alterations may be made by an author once the type has been set. Arrangements for reprints should be made with the editor. Cover photograph of a Mongolian rider is courtesy of Tillman.

Editor Fu-Kuo Liu Executive Editor Aaron Jensen Associate Editor Dean Karalekas Editorial Board Tiehlin Yen Raviprasad Narayanan Richard Hu James Yuan Dahua Mo Lipin Tien STRATEGIC VISION For Taiwan Security (ISSN 2227-3646) Volume 5, Number 26, April, 2016, published under the auspices of the Center for Security Studies and National Defense University. All editorial correspondence should be mailed to the editor at STRATEGIC VISION, Center for Security Studies in Taiwan. No. 64, Wan Shou Road, Taipei City 11666, Taiwan, ROC. The editors are responsible for the selection and acceptance of articles; responsibility for opinions expressed and accuracy of facts in articles published rests solely with individual authors. The editors are not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts; unaccepted manuscripts will be returned if accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed return envelope. Photographs used in this publication are used courtesy of the photographers, or through a creative commons licence. All are attributed appropriately. Any inquiries please contact the Executive Editor directly via email at: dkarale.kas@gmail.com. Or by telephone at: +886 (02) 8237-7228 Online issues and archives can be viewed at our website: www.mcsstw.org. © Copyright 2016 by the Center for Security Studies. Articles in this periodical do not necessarily represent the views of either the MCSS, NDU, or the editors.

From The Editor


he editors and staff of Strategic Vision would like to wish our readers well this spring season. The forces of change continue to shape the Asia-Pacific region. We hope that students and scholars in the academic community have the chance to keep up with these events. In support of that effort, we offer our latest edition of Strategic Vision. We open our second issue of the year with Oyuntsetseg Densmaa’s look at how Mongolia is handling the precarious balancing act regarding its relations with two neighboring giants: China and Russia. Mrs. Densmaa is an International Master’s student from Mongolia at the Graduate Institute of Strategic Studies at the ROC National Defense University. Next, Amrita Jash examines the emotional dimension of relations between China and Japan. Ms. Jash is a Doctoral Candidate in Chinese Studies, at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi-India. Dr. Masahiro Matsumura analyzes the strategic similarities between Japan and Taiwan in the Asia-Pacific Region. Dr. Matsumura is a professor of international politics at St. Andrew’s University (Momoyama Gakuin Daigaku) in Osaka, Japan and ROC-MOFA Taiwan Fellow at the Center for Security Studies, National Chengchi University. Next, Dr. Mark Valencia argues that increasing US Military activity in the South China Sea is contributing to the incresing potential for conflict with China. Dr. Valencia is currently an Adjunct Senior Scholar at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies in Haikou, China. Finally, Strategic Vision’s own Dean Karalekas looks at the recent 7th Korean Workers’ Party Congress and analyses the likelihood that the regime’s failure to address economic issues will affect political stability on the Korean Peninsula. We hope you enjoy this issue, and look forward to bringing you the finest analysis and reporting on the issues of importance to security in the Taiwan Strait and the Asia-Pacific region. Dr. Fu-Kuo Liu Editor Strategic Vision

4  b 

Strategic Vision vol. 5, no. 26 (April, 2016)

Between Giants

Mongolia seeks new direction as it balances relations with China and Russia Oyuntsetseg Densmaa


ountries, it is said, may choose their friends but not their neighbors. Mongolia, a landlocked country with a huge, empty land and a small population, sits precariously between two aspiring superpowers: Russia and China. It is economically and militarily weak in comparison with these gargantuan neighbors. Following seven decades of communist rule, Mongolia’s peaceful democratic revolution in 1990 ushered in a transition from a single-party communist system with strong ties to the Soviet Union to a multi-party democracy.

Since the end of the Cold War, Mongolia has experienced a new security environment that offers both a real opportunity to determine its national security and pursue a peaceful, open, independent and multi-pillared foreign policy. At the same time, Mongolia has been seeking to develop a more balanced strategy it calls the “third neighbor” foreign policy, which seeks to deepen relations with other important countries besides just Russia and China. Mongolia is successfully developing friendly relations and cooperation with its two neighbors, as well

photo: Ben Eberle Mongolia has been strengthening international ties by hosting military exercises such as Khaan Quest, in which US and Australian forces participated.

Oyuntsetseg Densmaa is an international Master’s student at the Graduate Institute of Strategic Studies at National Defense University (Taiwan, ROC). She can be reached at doyunaa_11@yahoo.com

keeping balance  b  5

as with other nations in Asia and the West. Relations with UN bodies and other international and regional organizations have deepened, and Mongolia’s participation has increased in multilateral regional activities, which has led to a strengthened reputation for Mongolia in the international arena. At this time, the relations of Mongolia with Russia and China are very different than they were before. As part of Mongolia’s foreign policy priorities, bilateral relations with the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have been elevated to a new level: that of strategic partnership. The new foreign policy seeks equal relations with both neighbors. A treaty on friendly relations and cooperation was signed with Russia in 1993 and the PRC in 1994. Those treaties lay down the basic principles of cooperation, including mutual respect for each other’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; non-aggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, peaceful co-existence, and equality in relations. Mongolia has established strategic partnerships with both of them, in 2009 with Russia and in 2011 with China. In 2014 Mongolia established with China a “Comprehensive partnership based on common values and shared strategic interests” in all fields.

New opportunities The 21st century marked a new era in Mongolia’s relations with Russia and China. There is growing bilateral cooperation to strategic partnerships which in turn strengthens trilateral cooperation between the three countries. When in late 2014 the leaders of Mongolia, Russia, and China met together for the first time in living memory, Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj took the opportunity of offer to host a trilateral summit in order to discuss security issues confronting Northeast Asia and other matters for spurring broader cooperation among the three countries.

Chinese and Russian leaders both visited Mongolia in 2014. PRC President Xi Jinping’s two-day visit took place in late August, while a working visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin came several days later, on September 3. Speaking at the Mongolian Parliament, Xi pointed out that Mongolia had been one of the first countries to recognize a new China 65 years prior, and vowed always to remember the support rendered by Ulaanbaatar. “No matter how the international and regional situation may evolve, China will always follow the spirit

“The building of roads, a railway and a pipeline through Mongolia will enable it to become a “transit corridor” linking China and Russia.” enshrined in the friendship and cooperation treaty between China and Mongolia, respect Mongolia’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity and the Mongolian people’s independent choice of development path. This is a basic and long-term policy that we will uphold,” Xi said. During the visit, the two sides signed agreements in areas such as mining and financial cooperation. For Mongolia, the most important deal was the railway transition agreement that would enable the delivery of coal and other minerals to China. Additionally, the building of roads, a railway, and a pipeline through Mongolia will enable it to become a “transit corridor” linking China and Russia. Putin’s visit also covered economic agreements and visa-free movement between Russia and Mongolia. Thirteen agreements on trade and development between the two countries were signed. Trade between the two nations is expected to reach US$10 billion by 2020. Additionally, exports to Russia will not face tax or customs duties for the next 20 years. The first meeting of the presidents of Mongolia, China, and Russia occurred on the sidelines of the


photo: Kremlin.ru From left, the presidents of China, Mongolia, and Russia pose for photographers during a meeting in in Dushanbe, Tajikistan in 2014.

Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting at Dushanbe, Tajikistan on September 11, 2014. During the summit, Elbegdorj conveyed that Mongolia wanted to take advantage of deepening Sino-Russian economic relations. Xi proclaimed that the trilateral summit was of “great significance to deepening mutual trust among the three parties, and pushing forward regional cooperation in Northeast Asia.” During the Dushanbe meeting, Putin emphasized the geographic proximity of Mongolia, Russia, and China and how it could help implement beneficial long-term projects in infrastructure, energy, and mining. He also acknowledged the development of the Silk Road Project and sought opportunities to connect it with other Russian projects. After the SCO meeting, President Elbegdorj announced that Mongolia would host the implementation of the Railway Transit Transportation agreement. He also agreed to set up a working group to study the linking of Central Asia’s natural gas fields to China and South Korea through Mongolia. The Dushanbe

meeting was proof of China’s and Russia’s deepening coordination, especially regarding Mongolia and the greater Eurasian continent. Deepening cooperation with China and Russia, particularly in the areas of infrastructure, mining, and energy, can only benefit Mongolia and help it continue to become a more important country in Asia. The leaders of three countries again met together on the sidelines of the 7th BRICS summit in the Russian city of Ufa in July, 2015. There Xi called on China, Russia, and Mongolia to push forward the construction of an economic corridor linking the three nations. While averring that economic cooperation is the priority area of trilateral cooperation, politically, Xi said, the three sides should cement mutual trust and forge a community of common destiny. Economically, he suggested that the three countries need to integrate their development strategies and advance regional economic cooperation. Putin said that the close bond among Russia, China, and Mongolia serves as a solid foundation for trilater-

Between Giants  b  7

al cooperation. The three sides have maintained close communication and coordination, and witnessed smooth cooperation in railway transportation, tourism, and other sectors. Putin expressed his pleasure at seeing a consensus reached on further expanding and deepening cooperation, which serves the common interests of the three countries, he said. Trilateral cooperation on railway transportation, logistics, facilitation of agricultural and mineral trade, infrastructure construction and other sectors is a benefit for the people of the three countries. During the meeting, the three heads of state approved a roadmap for the development of trilateral cooperation and witnessed the signing of a memorandum on compiling a guideline for building a trilateral economic corridor, a framework agreement on facilitating trilateral trade, and a framework agreement on cooperation on ports of entry among the three countries. In conclusion the three leaders also decided to establish a consultation mechanism at the vice foreign ministerial level to coordinate and promote trilateral cooperation.

Building ties

principle of “phasing.” The projects cited include the modernization of Ulaanbaatar Railway and the development of crossborder rail and road transport. Xi reiterated China’s support by calling for the third trilateral meeting to be held on the sidelines of the SCO Summit in Beijing in 2016. President Elbegdorj sought to strengthen Mongolia’s profile by shifting the next trilateral meeting from the SCO forum to Mongolia by suggesting that the meeting take place during the 11th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) to be held in Mongolia. Mongolia will host the confab in July, 2016. ASEM 2016 will be by far the largest diplomatic gathering in Mongolia’s history, and could have far-reaching implications. Both Russia and China will continue as significant partners of Mongolia in foreign policy matters irrespective of the extent of their economic dominance, at least for the foreseeable future. China is the country’s biggest economic partner, absorbing 90 percent of its exports and providing 30 percent of its imports. Mongolia is willing to cooperate with China in mining and infrastructure sectors in the long term and China is Mongolia’s largest source of foreign investment. Russia, meanwhile, provides all of Mongolia’s energy imports. Mongolians consider Russian activities in

According to the Mongolian side, trilateral relations will help accelerate tripartite cooperation and, in addition, solve some of Mongolia’s economic problems. The Russian side has presented a roadmap defining the priority areas of cooperation which include politics, security, economy, cross-border inter-regional relations, science and technology and humanitarian spheres, and regional and international relations. From the Chinese perspective, trilateral cooperation is primarily about economphoto: Dean Karalekas ic cooperation. China supports the Mongolian officers pose with a foreign delegation during a visit to a base near the Chinese frontier. coordination of joint projects on the


Mongolia as a geostrategic need to balance China, while Russians still see Mongolia as a buffer against a rising China. In other words, in a unipolar world, the multi-pillar policy—or for that matter, the “third neighbor” policy—should aim at ensuring security, both economic and strategic, by helping to overcome related challenges.

Seeking stability Mongolia seeks to maintain a position of neutrality in the region and would act to further consolidate regional and global guarantees of peace and stability. This could turn Mongolia into a transit corridor linking the Chinese and Russian economies. Throughout the twentieth century Russian and Soviet influence over Mongolia has been the predominant factor in its national development. The

post-Cold War era has changed Mongolia’s external environment and it will depend not only on wellestablished relationships with its two neighbors on the vertical level, but also on its relations with the outside world on the horizontal level. Strengthening relations beyond Russia and China will provide some balance to Mongolia’s relationship with its two nuclear-armed neighbors while also facilitating global engagement. This will help the nation to maintain its sovereignty, and provide diplomatic freedom of maneuver through the “third neighbor” strategy. In conclusion, Mongolia is still geopolitically important, for both Russia and China, as a buffer. Moreover, Mongolia does not have any significant areas of conflict with its neighbors, or any other countries in Northeast Asia. Maintaining a balance between Russia and China is the key to a stable future for Mongolia. n

photo: John Ewald Honor guard members from Mongolia’s military stand in formation during the opening ceremonies of exercise Khaan Quest in 2013.

b  9

Strategic Vision vol. 5, no. 26 (April, 2016)

Maritime Tensions Historical wounds complicate maritime relations between China and Japan Amrita Jash

photo: Daniel Jean-Paul Colonel Todd Finley presents a certificate of appreciation to a member of the US-Japan Friendship Association during the Fuji Friendship Festival.


he East China Sea has become the locus of geopolitical rivalry between China and Japan. After a slow thaw in the troubled waters with the resumption of maritime security talks between the two countries, tensions have again resurfaced. Beijing upped the ante by deploying an armed, former naval frigate, now operated by the coast guard, and two other ships in December 2015, near the 12mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that Japan claims around the disputed Diaoyutai (Senkaku) Islands in the East China Sea. Japan responded by sending military vessels to combat China’s actions. The tensions were ratcheted up

a further notch when China dispatched two coast guard ships in January 2016 to patrol the disputed islands in a counter-response to Japan’s warning. With such counterproductive incidents at play, the tensions between China and Japan in the East China Sea demand attention. With the deployment of air and naval assets by China and Japan, the possibility of an escalation cannot be ruled out. Thus, drawnout disputes over the rights to territorial and maritime claims has made the geopolitical landscape of the disputed Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands the center of gravity in the relationship. The most salient question is why the territorial

Amrita Jash is a doctoral candidate in Chinese Studies at the Centre for East Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi-India). Her email is ajash108@gmail.com


photo: Daniel Johnson AH-64D Apache helicopters with the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade fly from Pier 1 in Honolulu to their new home at Wheeler Army Airfield.

dispute over the Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands has intensified in recent years. If the dispute just revolved around material interests then tensions should have protracted since 1969, when Beijing and Taipei first started pressing their claims following publication of a United Nations survey that discovered oil and gas near the Japanese-controlled islands. In contrast, since 1972, with the normalization of Sino-Japanese relations, both parties maintained the territorial status-quo given the clash of sovereignty claims in the disputed islands. While Japan maintains effective control over the islands based on the principle of terra nullius and conducts monitoring with the Japanese Maritime Safety Agency, China claims that the islands have been part of its territory since ancient times, when they served as important fishing grounds administered by Taiwan. In this process of protracted grievances, the territorial dispute over the Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands in the East China Sea has become an immediate flashpoint that lies at the center of the troubled Sino-Japanese relationship. What explains the new toughness? The strategic rationale of material forces such as fishing rights and

hydrocarbon exploration as well as security interests in terms of maritime and economic advantages fail to explain the growing row between China and Japan. Here, what has made the tension more robust is the clash of sentiments over the territory. That is, the clash lies in the perception; both China and Japan view themselves as the victim and the other as the aggressor. The Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands dispute is an emotion-based conflict in which the two nations’ divergent perceptions, attitudes, and intentions interact intensely with one another. Although political and economic factors are behind the tension, the root of the problem is the historical factor, which acts as a catalyst. The rising tensions over the islands stimulate the collective memories of their divided past and appeal to their national interests.

Rising tensions In the case of China, its attitude is driven by a deepseated historical consciousness that makes the sovereignty issue against Japan in the East China Sea a highly explosive issue as compared, for example, to the South China Sea, in which Japan has no claims.

Maritime Tensions  b  11

For China, the salient factor is the brutal Japanese aggression of the past, whereby the sentiments regarding the status of the Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands run deeper in the Chinese psyche than any other territorial dispute in modern Chinese history. It is

“The East China Sea forms a strong security concern between China and Japan, where growing tensions are driven more by emotions than by rational choice.” the strong anti-Japanese sentiment that constrains China’s pragmatic policy toward Japan in terms of reconciliation. From this perspective, the status of the Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands today constitutes a legacy of a period of Japanese aggression beginning in the late 19th century and continuing until 1945, for which China believes Japan still fails to show proper repentance. In this view, although the Diaoyu (Senkaku)

islands were not included directly in the Treaty of Shimonoseki, the Treaty of San Francisco, or any other international treaties, Beijing still thinks that Japan should give up territories that were ceded to it by the Ching court after the Japanese victory in the 18941995 Sino-Japanese War. This mistrust toward Japan has elevated Beijing’s security index toward Tokyo. The manifestations that clarify the existing strategic distrust can be traced in the activities that led to the building of tensions. Incidents such as the 2010 Chinese fishing boat collision with Japanese patrol ships near the disputed islands and the 2012 Japanese government purchase of some of the islands from their private owner led to the deterioration of relations both politically and socially. These incidents enabled the reconstruction of China’s victim identity vis-à-vis Japan as the aggressor, affecting regional peace and stability. Given this psyche, these events triggered China’s anti-Japanese sentiments as reflected in the rise of popular outrage and unrest, calling off all bilateral interac-

photo: Brian Biller USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), right, and USS Essex (LHD 2) moored in Subic Bay. The Philippines and the US have been expanding military cooperation.


photo: Alejandro Pena Paratroopers board and position their gear aboard a C-17 before a night jump in Alaska. These forces provide the US with rapid reaction capability.

tions in order to prevent any form of control by Japan over China. Since these developments, China has regularly challenged Japan’s resolve in the East China Sea by carrying out patrols and, most importantly, by establishing an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the disputed islands in 2013. Thereby, the East China Sea forms a strong security concern between China and Japan, where growing tensions are driven more by emotions than rational choice. China’s behavior toward Japan is regulated by the chronic illness of the Chinese psyche caused by historical memories of a brutal past that has become anathema in China’s diplomatic relations with Japan whereby the victim’s self-identity vis-à-vis an “aggressive Japan” plays a vital role in bedeviling SinoJapanese relations. Thereby, this embedded emotion of animosity strongly impedes the resolution process.

tics significantly impedes the process of resolution between China and Japan. Therefore, in order to deescalate tensions, both China and Japan need to take a step forward toward greater confidence-building. Since the costs and stakes on either side will be high if a confrontation occurs, each party should act proactively rather than reactively in minimizing tensions. To improve relations, confidence-building measures (CBMs) are urgently needed to quell the tensions, increase dialogue, and ultimately start to foster trust. Similar to its dealings with other countries, China needs to alter its approach to Japan and enter into formal security arrangements which will increase the trust factor. In doing so, the most immediate need is to put the history factor in the background, which is a necessary prerequisite for successful CBMs. Additionally, regular maritime security talks should become a mechanism in creating the trust factor and

Building trust

to reach a common understanding. Finally, both sides should moderate their expanding military posture in order to decrease tensions and maintain peace and tranquility in the tense waters. By working toward greater mutual trust, China and Japan can set the stage for a permanent solution to territorial disagreements in the East China Sea. n

Given the emotional weight attached to this issue, a quick solution to the grievance is unlikely. The problem lies in the strategic mistrust that arises as a result of the varied interpretations of history which has created a difference in perceptions. Nationalist poli-

b  13

Strategic Vision vol. 5, no. 26 (April, 2016)

Strategic Choices Japan’s strategic history in Asia holds lessons for contemporary Taiwan Matsahiro Matsumura


ith the change of government that took place May 20 under the newly minted President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s national security establishment needs to refocus on larger geostrategic issues on which to construct its basic strategy and policy line. Needless to say, Taiwan relies heavily on the United States as its sole security guarantor. This support is maintained in part through the Japan-US security alliance which makes available logistical support and forward deployment as well as supplementary and complementary Self-Defense Force (SDF) capabilities. Also, Japan appears to have maintained the alliance rather contentedly, despite

perennial concerns about autonomy and national pride. It begs the question of whether Japan’s security orientation will serve as catalyst for strategic rethinking on the part of Taiwan’s new leadership. Under the bilateral alliance, Japan accepts its status as a junior partner and performs as a middle power. Yet, it has great-power potential, lacking only strategic independence. Japan has great economic, fiscal, and technological power and maintains a moderately sized yet technologically sophisticated conventional armed force, yet it lacks a nuclear arsenal and permanent UN Security Council membership. Japan’s geostrategic position is critical in the con-

photo: Jason Bawgus Mount Fuji provides a brilliant backdrop to a group of MH-60S Seahawks from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 51.

Masahiro Matsumura is professor of international politics at St. Andrew’s University (Momoyama Gakuin Daigaku) in Osaka, Japan and ROC-MOFA Taiwan Fellow at the Center for Security Studies, National Chengchi University. He can be reached at masahiro@andrew.ac.jp


and deviation from, the geostrategic imperative. Japan’s security at the grand strategic level was unhampered when it was aligned with the British Empire, and favorable under the Anglo-Japanese Alliance from 1902 to 1923. More specifically, the Empire helped Japan under the pro-Britain Meiji government to grow an auxiliary maritime power in the Far East, and assigned it to play a buffer role in the context of its Great Game with Russia. This was particularly evident from photo: Sam Shaver Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japanese Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus meets in Japan with Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano. War (1904-1905) and its elevation to text of the competition between a dominant Eurasian great-power status after the First World War. land power and a global sea power. This is because With Korea and Qing China too weak to counter Japan can serve as a buffer between the two and as Russia, Japan’s rise, including its annexation of Korea one’s bridgehead and buffer against the other. Due in 1910 and its growing sphere of influence to include to the serious lack of strategic depth inherent in its Manchuria, was consistent with British geostrategic long and narrow archipelago located off the Eurasian interests. In fact, it would have made more geostralandmass, Japan remains vulnerable, and without tegic sense to establish an independent Manchuria the stable buttress of either a Eurasian land power under the last Qing emperor dethroned in 1912 sooner or a global sea power. Thus, it has to choose a side rather than later, because Manchuria, at least then, for survival, because facing opposition on two fronts was still the fatherland of the Qing dynasty (1644is suicidal. 1912) and the Manchu people, being distinct from the Han Chinese. Also, Japan’s Siberian Expedition Strategic errors (1918-1922) after the Russian Revolution would have been more tenable if explicitly aimed at recovering Evidently, it is Japan’s strategic imperative to be outer Manchuria, which was taken away from the aligned with the global sea power, given that the Qing court through the 1858 unequal treaties of Aigun two share a strong sense of domestic and internaand of Tientsin. tional order in favor of decentralization vis-à-vis an Japan’s advance into Korea and Manchuria exauthoritarian Asian land power that favors centralpanded not only its buffer against Russia, but also ization. This choice makes sense, particularly bethat for Britain and the United States. Apparently, cause Japan has historically developed a longtime Washington vainly tried to accommodate Tokyo by state identity detached from and untouched by the tacitly respecting its sphere of influence, most typiSino-centric order. cally, through the Katsura-Taft Memorandum of 1905 The rise and fall of modern and contemporary Japan and the Ishii-Lansing Agreement of 1917. have been determined largely by its observance of, Revealingly, even Japan’s establishment of

Strategic Choices  b  15

Graphic: Emok

Manchukuo in 1932 was overdue, as demonstrated by the League of Nations Lytton Report of 1933 that was acquiescent to the de facto recognition of Manchukuo by the Kuomintang government, which would be formalized in the Sino-Japanese Tangku Truce of 1933. Korea thereafter was no longer geostrategically essential, becoming a mere economic liability that should have been given its independence. Thus the decisive turning point toward Japan’s complete defeat was not the Mukden Incident of 1931, but the Second Battle of Shanghai of 1937, in which Japan’s spearhead was redirected southward. Yet, Japanese leaders had already been confused over proper geostrategic orientation as early as 1875. The Meiji government easily dropped its strong claim to Sakhalin, whose status was undetermined under the Treaty of Shimoda of 1855, involving a de facto Japanese-Russia condominium, in exchange for the Kuril Islands through the Treaty of St. Petersburg of 1875. Japan came to possess the southern half of Sakhalin Island only after Russia ceded it after its defeat in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). In contrast, the Japanese government placed a great value on

Taiwan, which the Qing court ceded in 1895 after its defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War, and former German-occupied Micronesia north of the equator, which was given over to Japanese rule by the League of Nations in 1922. Both possessions turned out to be liabilities which led to clashes with Britain and the United States. The point of no return was Japan’s lawful invasion of French Indo-China in 1940, in which Vichy France quickly reached agreement with Japan. Given its high military utility as a base for airpower projection against British Malaya and the Philippines, it constituted a de facto declaration of war against Britain and the United States. This move was taken concurrently with its decision not to attack the Soviet Union, while dishonoring the Tripartite Pact and honoring the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact. This action and inaction together defied Japan’s geostrategic imperative, creating a strategic blunder. Needless to say, this strategic shift was indeed indispensable for Soviet survival under overwhelming attacks by Nazi forces. In the global geostrategic game, Japan simply has a supplementary and complementary role vis-à-vis a


photo: Deana Heitzman US Air Force personnel at the 35th Maintenance Squadron at Misawa Air Base, Japan, conduct testing on an F-16 engine in afterburner phase.

global sea power. This effectively means that, under Anglo-American predominance, Japan has to advance northward but not southward. Japan prospers if and only if it adheres to this geostrategic imperative and successfully manages the strategic constraints thereunder.

The fall of the Japanese Empire is attributable to its utter defiance against strategic imperatives. Although the details are beyond the scope this essay, it is evident that a series of fatal policy decisions were made by the top leadership which had lost its objective geo-

complementary sea power. In the end, they lost not only the Japanese Empire and Manchukuo as an expanded buffer against the Soviets but also their colonies in Asia and China, respectively. Furthermore, given post-surrender Japan under a US-led military occupation, the United States had to shoulder the entire security burden to defend not only the Japanese mainland but also South Korea and Taiwan as its buffer against the Soviets and communist China. In large part, this state of affairs essentially continues today. Hindsight tells us that the United States would have been better off had it allowed Japan to retain Korea and Taiwan together with the security burdens over them, on the grounds that Tokyo would,

strategic perspective, while being affected by a dominant anti-Anglo-Americanism and Pan-Asianism involving a strong ethnocentric national identity and a revisionist state identity, combined with counterintelligence failures against Soviet infiltration. Revealingly, it was also a geostrategic imperative for Britain and the United States to utilize Japan as a

sooner or later, have to give them their independence, as demonstrated by the birth of numerous newly independent states in the 1950s and 1960s. Against this backdrop, contemporary Japanese geostrategic standing is sufficiently solid because it is firmly tied to the US hegemon, the only global sea power, through bilateral alliance, while Russian

Historical forces

Strategic Choices  b  17

power is declining in the long run. Thus, while Japan must still be cautious toward Russia, there is little need for Japan to march northward. Yet, with China’s rapid rise and America’s relative decline, there is some uncertainty regarding US willingness to unilaterally shoulder security burdens vis-à-vis China, particularly after the US economy has suffered serious structural problems since the 2008 financial crisis. China’s threat may grow over the mid-term, even though it faces a rapidly greying society, compounded by rapidly growing internal social-economic challenges, a thinly disguised nationalistic appeal to socialism, and uncertain civilian control of the military. Japan has to complement US military power in the southwestern and southern fronts. Taiwan’s freedom of action is very limited. It is an object, not a subject, of regional strategic relations. It is a mini-Japan in the geostrategic sense, as it is an outer part of the Japan-centered Northeast Asian buffer and bridgehead of the United States, the only global sea power. Accordingly, Taipei must follow US Asia-Pacific strategy and needs strategic, operational,

and tactical coordination with Washington. Also, Taiwan must coordinate its defense policy with Japan at the operational and tactical levels in the context of the Japan-US alliance. More specifically, Taiwan can only survive if it focuses on territorial defense. As a critical part of the US Asia-Pacific strategy vis-à-vis China’s aspirations of regional hegemony, the situation is very similar to Japan’s role against the Soviets during the Cold War. The prospects for survival will be dramatically improved if Taiwan reallocates its limited fiscal resources and manpower toward meeting the requirements of territorial defense. Such a focus will require that difficult choices be made against purchasing expensive high-end platforms and weaponry that military organizations typically desire. Taiwan must also consider the need to coordinate its military policy details with the JapanUS alliance to form the third leg in trilateral relations between the United States, Japan, and Taiwan. The incoming Tsai administration would be well advised to work out the details of such a strategy. n

photo: Christian Frasher A US Navy F-18 and two Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) F-15s conduct dissimilar air combat training during exercise Benkyoukai.

18  b 

Strategic Vision vol. 5, no. 26 (April, 2016)

Coming Clash

Solutions needed as US military activity in South China Sea raises tensions Mark Valencia


he South China Sea political situation has taken a decided turn for the worse. In early March the United States upped the ante in its contest of wills with China by deploying an aircraft carrier strike group to the South China Sea. The carrier John C. Stennis was joined in the region by the cruisers Antietam and Mobile Bay, and the destroyers Chung-Hoon and Stockdale. The command ship Blue Ridge, the floating headquarters of the Japanbased 7th Fleet, was also in the area, en route to a port visit in the Philippines. The Stennis deployed from Washington State on 15 January. This came on the heels of a warning from US Secretary of Defense

Ashton Carter that “China must not pursue militarization in the South China Sea.” “Specific actions will have specific consequences,” Carter added in a March 1 speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. The strike group was preceded by US freedom of navigation operations using guided missile destroyers and overflights of the sea by US B-52 bombers. Beginning in April the US Pacific Command launched a series of patrols by A-10 Thunderbolt warplanes and Sikorsky HH-60 combat helicopters in international airspace near Scarborough Shoal. The use of American ground-attack aircraft and special

photo: Indra Bosko Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin and his staff meet with Rear Adm. Wang Hai, deputy commander of the People’s Liberation Army Navy in Shanghai.

Mark Valencia is an Adjunct Senior Scholar at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, Haikou, China. He can be reached for comment at mjvalencia@gmail.com

Coming Clash  b  19

photo: Delano Scott A United States Marine uses hand signals to communicate with fellow Marine jumpers in a C-130 Hercules over Yokota Air Base, Japan.

forces helicopters could be interpreted as a threat, emphasizing Washington’s ability to mount operations against Chinese-claimed and occupied islets. Then on May 10, the guided missile destroyer USS William P. Lawrence sailed within 12 miles of disputed Fiery Cross Reef where the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has built an airstrip—prompting Beijing to scramble fighter jets and dispatch warships to monitor and warn off the US ship. Such shows of force near a rival’s claimed territory invites a response and increases the risk of a military clash that could spin out of control. Indeed, this projection of one of the most prominent symbols of American power changes the nature and prognosis of the game. The situation has now reached a criti-

ancing to Asia has come face-to-face with China’s desire to control its near-shore waters. Indeed the two have converging strategic trajectories. Domination of control, communications, computer and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems (C4 ISR) in and over China’s near shore waters is critical for both. Indeed, this is where their national security interests collide. This collision has produced a series of international incidents in which China has challenged US ISR vessels and aircraft like the EP-3 (2001), the Impeccable (2009), the Cowpens (2013) and another EP-3 in May, 2016.

cal level that cannot be ignored. How did it get to this point and how can the two avoid or postpone the seemingly inevitable clash—or does the United States even want to do so? The strategic context is important. The US rebal-

Politically, the United States and China also have competing goals. Simply put, the United States is unwilling to yield sufficient political or military space to satisfy China’s ambitions. Apparently this fundamental dialectic cannot be changed. Moreover, the

Competing goals


photo: James Richardson An Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft conducts a low-level flight during Large Package Week at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

recent US show of force indicates that the US-China relationship, particularly the military relationship, is rapidly headed south. This is despite denials and upbeat rhetoric about routine operations, increased US Navy port visits to China, and cooperative bilateral agreements on at-sea communications and activities. Not only does China’s leadership see through this smokescreen, but most observers do as well.

Fundamental differences The basic problem is that China is not behaving according to the US script. It has not ceased its assertive actions to back up its extraordinary claims in the South China Sea, which include island building or expansion and their militarization. Indeed it has undertaken massive reclamation activities and in the view of Pacific Command’s Admiral Harry Harris, militarized the South China Sea and thus changed the operational nature of the area. “You would have to believe in a flat Earth to think

otherwise,” said Harris. This is not the Cuban Missile Crisis redux, however. China’s actions in the South China Sea are not an existential threat to the United States, or even to the other claimants there. Is it really worth going to war over? Bellicose nationalists in both countries, like US Senator John McCain and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General Fan Changlong think so, and they have called for tougher actions by their respective countries, forcing their by their respective governments into a corner. Specifically, some US officials and many politicians and analysts say America should stand up to the PRC regarding its reclamation, militarization, and imposition of navigational restrictions around features there. But the real US angst is China’s defiance of US preferences, warnings, and threats, and now even its show of force. It is generally understood that China’s government controls its media and strongly influences the opinion of its representatives as well as its pundits and aca-

Coming Clash  b  21

demics. But what is the excuse for the US press and its analysts and academics operating in a free society? With a few notable exceptions they have been beating a drum for war. According to them, China is trying to change the international rules, threatening freedom of navigation, bullying its rival claimants, militarizing the features it occupies, undertaking massive reclamation activities that damage the environment, and in general behaving badly.

Alternative perceptions This is mostly hyperbole. It is an unfair singling out of China or a critique of what China might, or could, do. Indeed this narrative is largely nonsense. In a conflict, the installations would be neutralized in a heartbeat. Other SCS claimants have militarized the features they occupy and damaged their environment. China’s activities may be massive, but so is China, and therefore its capacity. Small countries always accuse their big-power opponents of bullying, including frequently the United States. Moreover, China has never threatened international maritime commerce. As for violating the existing international rules, the United States has not ratified the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea which stipulates many of the rules in question. So its critique of China in this regard rings hollow. Some of the rules pertaining to military activities at sea are controversial and in flux. Indeed, there are few hard and fast relevant international rules that all nations agree on. Ironically, China is essentially behaving and doing as the United States did in the last century; attempting to control its near shore waters and carve out a sphere of influence—like the United States did in the Caribbean and Central and South America. The latest flap was stimulated by political pundits worried about China’s placement of surfaceto-air missiles and jet fighters on Woody Island in the Paracel Islands. This group is claimed by China,

Taiwan, and Vietnam, and has been occupied by China since it took them by force from Vietnam in 1974, at which time there was no protest regarding this shift in sovereignty coming from the United States. While China is trying to extend control of what it views as its own backyard, the United States, in apparent response, is projecting power half way around the world. And now we have the spectacle of the commander of the world’s most powerful Navy—US PACOM Admiral Harry Harris—publicly pronouncing on US strategy just before a critical visit of China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Washington.

“Small countries always accuse their big-power opponents of bullying, including frequently the United States.” “China seeks hegemony in east Asia,” according to Harris. Not only did such a statement from a serving military officer come close to usurping the president’s prerogative to make and pronounce on broad strategy, it certainly got the attention of China’s leadership. The nationalist Global Times called it China bashing. Compounding the issue, the White House did not disavow the statement. Perhaps China’s leadership assumes this is US President Barack Obama’s position. Moreover, the admiral has now proposed a revival of a strategic coalition of the navies of Japan, Australia, India, and the United States in what would be a thinly veiled operational alliance against China—or at least it would be perceived as such by China.

Standing ground As Australian analyst Hugh White has cogently argued, US strategy in the South China Sea is failing. The United States assumes that it can increase pressure on China with relative impunity until China blinks and backs off. China has so far not been cowed


by US diplomatic and military warnings and shows of force and instead seems to be signaling by its statements and actions that it will risk a military confrontation to defend its position there. The US carrier strike force returned to the South China Sea in mid-April to participate in joint USPhilippine exercises. Its presence undoubtedly sent a message that will resonate within PLA leadership and influence its thinking. Indeed, in a tit-for-tat reaction, China denied a request for the Stennis battle group to make a routine port call in Hong Kong, the first such denial in a decade. Like the 1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis, China is unlikely to forget or forgive. Indeed, this show of force will likely give rise to a new defensive strategy. China’s new 7.6 percent military budget increase—while less generous than last year—is still sufficient to enhance its control of near shore waters.

The US conundrum is how to avoid a US-China confrontation and maintain US primacy in Asia, but it cannot have its cake and eat it too. A mutual face-saving compromise is needed. Conceptually, the United States has to accept and accommodate a major role for China in Asian security. In return, China has to do the same regarding a continuing US role and military presence in the region. In practical terms, the United States should put less emphasis on the military dimension of its rebalance to Asia. As a corollary, the US should diminish or cease its provocative, close-in surveillance of China. China should, in turn, not further overtly militarize the Spratly features, and more importantly not declare an air defense identification zone over them. Whatever the compromise, the United States should rethink its self-image as well as the limits of its power, and reformulate its strategy—and the sooner the better. n

photo: Don Patton Commander US 7th Fleet, Adm. Joseph Aucoin, is greeted on the pier by the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) during a welcoming ceremony in Shanghai.

b  23

photo: Dean Karalekas Crowds pay respects to DPRK founder and Eternal President Kim Il Sung at Mansudae. The elder Kim held the last Party Congress 36 years ago

Strategic Vision vol. 5, no. 26 (April, 2016)

Population Control Underwhelming economic goals unveiled at Korean Workers’ Party congress Dean Karalekas


he Workers’ Party of Korea held its seventh Party Congress in Pyongyang recently, marking the first time such a gathering— normally a regular occurrence in Communist countries—has taken place since 1980. And like the last one, this congress was largely held to reaffirm the

of a five-year economic plan, there was very little to address the problems currently faced by the DPRK and by the people of North Korea. Western analysts almost uniformly interpreted the economic aims of the five-year plan as insufficient—and insufficiently detailed—to alleviate such suffering, with some fore-

leadership of the Kim family. While Kim Jong Un, Chairman of the Workers’ Party and supreme leader of the Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK), gave a speech outlining the country’s goals in the form

seeing a downfall of the Kim regime as a result. In his speech, Kim dismissed any notion of wideranging reforms to the country’s economy following the example of China or Vietnam, focusing instead

Dean Karalekas is a doctoral candidate in the International Doctoral Program in Asia-Pacific Studies at Taiwan’s National Chengchi University. He can be reached for comment at dkaralekas@hotmail.com.


on the need to balance development and improve the lives of the people—this latter pronouncement an uncharacteristic admission that much has yet to be done to properly feed and care for the nation’s population of 25 million and—more importantly to the regime—it’s million-plus standing army. Indeed, the sectors of the economy that Kim singled out as being targets for development demonstrate the regime’s understanding of the problems faced by the people. Three sectors in particular were identified: the provision of energy, food, and consumer goods. Unfortunately, recognizing the problems is a far cry from proposing feasible solutions, and the methods laid out in Kim’s speech to tackle these shortfalls seem, on the surface, to be insufficient to the task. In terms of energy, Kim spoke about building new power generation facilities, including nuclear ones, in various locations around the nation in order to meet the future energy needs of the economy and infrastructure. Moreover, rather than cracking the door

open to an export economy that might provide the funding necessary to import sufficient food to feed the population, Kim instead doubled down on the Juche concept of self-sufficiency. He pushed for an expansion of livestock, both private and in collectively owned herds, as well as a bump in the percentage of food production that farmers will be allowed to keep for themselves and sell at market.

Predictions of calamity These measures fell far short of the steps toward economic liberalization that many analysts were hoping to see. Writing in the South China Morning Post, Deng Yuwen and Huang Ting perceive a “high probability of regime collapse,” largely as a long-term result of these insufficient policy aims, citing a 10- to 15-year timeframe before the regime succumbs to outside intervention, internal coup, or widespread dissatisfaction growing among the people.

photo: Dean Karalekas Although there are many computers in North Korea, few are connected to the Internet, and all radios are hardwired to receive official broadcasts.

North Korea  b  25

photo: Dean Karalekas In the 1990s, an estimated 5 percent of the population of North Korea starved to death, with the survivors subsisting on tree bark and grass.

The likelihood of any of these scenarios playing out beg closer examination, particularly the latter one: that an economic downturn may lead to a revolutionary crisis. The reaction of the North Korean people to economic hardship need not be theorized, as this is exactly what transpired in the late 1990s when an estimated 5 percent of the population starved to death, with the survivors subsisting on tree bark and grass. Instead of the citizenry rising up in protest, the complete control that the government wields over information and its extreme isolation from the outside world had created a populace completely incapable of considering, much less mounting, a rebellion, so accustomed were they to conditions of extreme poverty. Indeed, the best way to survive such conditions is to join the system and become, as far as is possible, a trusted follower of the elite. A side effect of the sustained famine that mitigates against any possible uprising is that it has created a physically weak population, especially among members of the poorest class; Based on a survey of 6,000 North Korean households, the country’s children are experiencing major health problems including, but

not confined to, stunting and wasting. This is due largely to the poor state of nutrition that is a result of global isolation and national military spending that exceeds 20 percent of GDP. It has been reported that the prevalence of stunting in North Korea was 39.6 percent among boys and 36.8 percent among girls. Even assuming that the citizenry were to become so disaffected as to attempt rebellion, there is little chance that such a physically weakened and stunted group could defeat the state’s standing army of 1.2 million men, as well as a further 5 million reservists, all of whom are comparatively well-fed and committed through their conditioning to revere and defend the Kim regime.

Conditions absent The conditions enumerated by theorists on contentious politics as being the precursors for forms of violence, rebellion and revolution are conspicuously absent in North Korea, but there were several characteristics of the Arab uprisings that were unique to today’s world and the technology that enables instant


communication and organization, which many observers have credited for being almost wholly responsible for the Jasmine revolutions. While one may argue with the degree to which this is true, one thing is certain: The use of Internet-enabled communications in the popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa highlighted the central role that information technology plays in provoking dissent today. These, too, are absent in the DPRK. While much has been made of the Great Firewall of China and the extent to which the Chinese Communist Party controls the content that Chinese citizens can see on the Internet, it is nothing compared to the degree to which Pyongyang controls and manipulates the information coming in from the outside world. Communications over such social networking sites as Facebook and Twitter allowed protestors in the Middle East and North Africa to dialogue with one another as they organized rallies and warned each other about the location of gov-

ernment troops, while simultaneously communicating with the outside world about conditions in their countries and receiving all-important information from the outside about how their plight was being followed by sympathetic forces in the international community. These tools are simply not available in the Hermit Kingdom. While there are a large number of computers in North Korea, none are connected to the Internet (save those of the ruling elite), and all radios are hardwired to receive only the official government broadcasts. Although this is changing slowly, with a limited nationwide intranet system called Kwangmyong, it remains strictly controlled and unable to tap information from the outside world. Even the estimated 800,000 registered mobilephone subscribers are incapable of making overseas calls, and they have their communications regularly monitored by the government, making it next to impossible for potential dissidents to use text-based

photo: Dean Karalekas At the 6th Korean Workers’ Party Congress in 1980, Kim Jong Il was conferred high-ranking positions and announced as Kim Il Sung’s heir.

North Korea  b  27

photo: Dean Karalekas The Pyongyang skyline is dominated by the distinctive pyramid shape of the Ryugyong Hotel, an unfinished 105-storey luxury hotel.

services to organize the sort of people-power protests employed widely throughout the Philippines, for example. What little information manages to slip into the country does so through smuggled DVDs and videotapes from South Korea, as well as illicit mobile phones which can access the Chinese cellular networks that spill over the border. It is perhaps illustrative of the inadequacy of modern technology to convey information into the DPRK that one of the most effective means thus far has been to go low-tech: South Koreans sent news about the Arab uprisings on printed leaflets, proclaiming “A dictatorial regime is destined to collapse.” These are sent aloft individually attached to balloons and allowed to drift slowly into the North. Unfortunately, these propaganda balloons fail to reach a wide audience, and their use only raises the risk of heightening tensions between Pyongyang and Seoul. Given the almost watertight control over information, the citizenry has very little knowledge about events and ways of life outside their borders, is barely aware of the concept of freedom, and completely un-

able to communicate even with one another in forms and fashions that are not micromanaged by the state. Moreover, aside from certain non-mainstream groups in South Korea, there is very little interest among the international community in supporting, even covertly, such a rebellion the way the uprising in Libya gained widespread international help in the form of aid, weapons, advisors, and even air support by Western militaries as the rebels sought to unseat Ghaddafi. In conclusion, even if there were an organized opposition, or a budding protest movement, in existence in North Korea to receive such external support, the only powers capable of providing it, the United States and China, remain unlikely to foment such rebellion either covertly or otherwise as they each have a vested interest in maintaining the geopolitical status quo. According to the views of security analysts in the two countries, such instability risks increasing uncertainties in regional security and causing problems, both diplomatic and domestic, for the two powers. Thus an almost obsessive preoccupation with maintaining the stability of the Kim regime. n

Visit our website:


Profile for Strategic Vision

Strategic Vision, Issue 26  

Strategic Vision is a journal published by NCCU's Center for Security Studies and the ROC National Defense University that provides analysis...

Strategic Vision, Issue 26  

Strategic Vision is a journal published by NCCU's Center for Security Studies and the ROC National Defense University that provides analysis...

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded