Indo-pacific

People watch the annual Fourth of July parade on 4 July 2021 in Saugerties, New York. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)

SEA nations may need to pick a side as US-China rivalry intensifies

There is bipartisan support under the Biden administration to compete with and confront China, reflecting the American desire to maintain its dominant position in the international system. However, the US’s ability to act as a reliable security partner is heavily constrained by its domestic political paralysis caused by ideological divisions as well as social and economic upheavals. And while Southeast Asian countries want the US to remain militarily and economically engaged in the region to act as a counterweight to China, they do not want to take sides between the two superpowers. Canadian academic Shaun Narine believes this may be an increasingly difficult balance as US-China rivalry intensifies.
F-35B Lightning II aircraft are seen on the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth, currently moored at the port of Limassol, Cyprus, 1 July 2021. (Yiannis Kourtoglou/Reuters)

Will the UK's Royal Navy conduct a freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea?

As a British Carrier Strike Group heads towards Southeast Asia, speculation is rife that a Royal Navy warship will conduct a freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea. A recent incident in the Black Sea may shorten the odds of that happening.
US President Joe Biden holds a meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., 30 June 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Biden has not lived up his promises for Southeast Asia

As it pertains to Washington’s relations with Southeast Asia, the Biden administration is not faring much better than its predecessor. A low-hanging fruit would be the supply of Covid-19 vaccines.
G7 leaders attend a working session during the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, Britain, 12 June 2021. (Leon Neal/Pool via Reuters)

D10 group of democracies: A stronger alliance to contain China?

Chinese PhD candidate Du Zhiyuan notes that the recent G7 summit in the UK involving G7 members and guests was in fact a gathering of a “D10” club of democratic partners, along the lines proposed by British PM Boris Johnson. And the D10, in turn, could ultimately lead to a trans-Atlantic/Indo-Pacific alliance better fit to contain China.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi walk as they attend the ASEAN leaders' summit at the the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) secretariat building in Jakarta, Indonesia, 24 April 2021. (Muchlis Jr/Indonesian Presidential Palace/Handout via Reuters)

Is Indonesia's foreign policy tilting towards Beijing?

Indonesian academic Aristyo Rizka Darmawan looks at Indonesia's engagement with China in recent years and notes that Indonesia has adopted a foreign policy that is driven by economic interest and transactional considerations. Despite its increased engagement with China, Jakarta would need to upkeep its relationships with other regional powers for a good balance.
A UH-1J helicopter flies during a live fire exercise at Japan's Ground Self-Defense Forces (JGSDF) training grounds in the East Fuji Manuever Area in Gotemba on 22 May 2021. (Akio Kon/AFP)

Japan’s weapons transfers to Southeast Asia: Opportunities and challenges

Research fellow Victor Teo says that Japan’s re-emergence as a weapon exporter is fuelled by desires to increase Japanese capabilities, counteract China’s rise, hedge against possible future strategic abandonment by the US, fund next-generation weapon research, and foster Japan’s global leadership and influence in Southeast Asia. Using its overseas development assistance to the region, it is promoting the transfer of weapon systems, naval vessels and surveillance planes, particularly to Southeast Asian claimant states in the South China Sea. What are the implications of these actions?
Japan's Ground Self-Defense Forces (JGSDF) soldiers wearing protective face masks arrive for a live fire exercise at JGSDF's training grounds in the East Fuji Maneuver Area in Gotemba, Japan, on 22 May 2021. A key part of US President Joe Bidens foreign policy has been turning to allies for support in addressing the security risks posed by the likes of China and North Korea, placing a greater emphasis on the Indo-Pacific region. (Akio Kon/Bloomberg)

What removing the defence budget cap means for Japan’s role in the Indo-Pacific

​Since 1976, Japan’s defence budget has traditionally been capped at 1% of its GDP. However, in a recent interview, Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi said that this self-imposed limit would effectively be removed.
Philippine Coast Guard personnel are seen onboard rubber boats as they sail near Chinese vessels believed to be manned by Chinese maritime militia personnel at Whitsun Reef, South China Sea, in a handout photo distributed by the Philippine Coast guard 15 April 2021. (Philippine Coast Guard/Handout via Reuters)

Philippine-US cooperation on Whitsun Reef: A 'win' for the Biden team in Southeast Asia?

Southeast Asian views of the US declined during the Trump administration, and persisted into the Biden administration early on in the year. But Washington’s sustained support for Manila amid the latter’s recent confrontation with China in the South China Sea has helped to offset negative perceptions of Uncle Sam in the region.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arrives for the presentation of the budget at Parliament in Wellington, New Zealand on 20 May 2021. (Mark Graham/Bloomberg)

Uniquely New Zealand: How NZ maintains integrity amid great power rivalry

With the US-China strategic competition intensifying, New Zealand navigates these tricky geopolitical waters and pursues its "independent" foreign policy even at the risk of offending its Five Eyes partners. Interestingly, it has been able to uphold its principles when negotiating major power politics.