Thursday, October 11, 2007

Asia-Pacific Security and Security Cooperation among the US, Japan, Australia and India

During September 4 to 9, 2007, the Unite States, Japan, Australia, India and Singapore conducted a massive joint naval exercise in the Indian Ocean, which mobilized 27 warships, including 2 aircraft carriers from the U.S. and one from India. This is the latest multi-lateral defense cooperation conducted by the U.S. and its Asia-Pacific alliances after last joint drill co-launched with Japan and India off the Japan coast this April.

Such deployment of multi-lateral security cooperation by the U.S. and its Asia-Pacific alliance was initiated in 2005 and put into concrete interoperation in 2007. During the past two years, the U.S., Japan, Australia and India have moved forward to strengthen their diplomatic tie and security cooperation, and resulted in some remarkable developments. The examples are as follows: the U.S. and Japan declared their joint strategic goals in the Asia-Pacific region after the U.S.-Japan “two-plus-two strategic dialogue” on February 19, 2005; the “New Framework for the U.S.-India Defense Relationship” was signed on June 8, 2005; the U.S.-Japan-Australia “Trilateral Strategic Dialogue” was formed on March 16, 2006; India entered into defense cooperation agreements with Japan on May 25, 2006; Japan and India set up strategic partnership on December 15, 2006. In addition, the “Japan-Australian Security Consultative” was just declared on March 13, 2007.

Based on the formed multi-lateral security ties, there are two points for observing the following development of Asia-Pacific security circumstances: what does the strengthened cooperation imply in terms of security concerns? What would China react to such situation?

First, such series of cooperation on defense affairs showed that the United States, Japan, Australia and India are moving forward to certain consensus on the security threat faced in the Asia-Pacific region. Besides, it reflected that their concerns over China Rise are escalating. For example, Australia used to be silent on China Rise issue, but this July, it firstly pointed out in its National Defense Review that China’s military expansion would increase the regional instability, and China’s test of anti-satellite weapon launched in January would also escalate region-wide unsteadiness and misunderstanding. For the U.S., Japan, Australia and India, the uncertainty caused by China Rise is due to China’s ambiguous strategic intention and increasing investment in defense affairs. Therefore, they have to hedge against the security threat caused by China’s military expansion.

Additionally, the US-Japan-Australia-India security tie also signaled a structural change on the cooperation made by the US and its Asia-Pacific alliance. That is to say, the US has moved from bi-lateralism to multi-lateralism. Since after the Cold War, the US had taken the “US-Japan Security Treaty” as the most remarkable pillar in terms of maintaining the Asia-Pacific regional security. However, faced with the impact on regional power structure caused by China Rise, the U.S. and Japan tend to extend their original bi-lateral defense cooperation to a multi-lateral level, especially with those countries that share common value with them. Although currently, the cooperation has not been upgraded to the multi-lateral alliance level, and a joint action plan responding to crises or warfare is still wanting, but various strategic partnerships, joint security declarations and national defense cooperation agreements mentioned above also show that the security ties among the U.S., Japan, Australia and India are still on the move to institutionalization.

So far, China has taken two measures to respond to the power extension of the “U.S.-Japan Security Treaty.” The first is to make friends with Australia and India, preventing the two countries from tilting toward the U.S. and Japan. In fact, in order to retain the strategic ambiguity, Australia and India had not set up any formal cooperative relationship with the U.S. or Japan, but recently, India has developed strategic partnership with the U.S. and Japan by signing a national defense cooperation agreement. Moreover, Australia not only declared the “Japan-Australian Security Consultative” but also claimed that its closest alliances in the Asia-Pacific region were the U.S. and Japan. Responding to such strategic adjustment, China’s leader, Hu Jintao, paid his first visit to India last November, calling for a strengthened diplomatic tie and defense cooperation between the two countries. This September, when participating in the APEC summit in Australia, Hu Jintao suggested Australia and China should form an “annual dialogue mechanism” to enhance their security dialogue. Besides these gestures, there were still other related measures to prevent Australia and India from joining the operation of “U.S.-Japan Security Treaty.”

On the other hand, China also started to strengthen the military cooperation with Russia and Central Asian countries by means of exercising joint military drills. For example, the SCO, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, had recently echoed with China’s advocacy to conduct the largest joint anti-terror drill by scale, “Peace Mission-2007.” All the leaders and Defense Ministers of the member states of the SCO also attended the exercise, stressing its political significance of being a counter-force to work against the U.S.-Japan deployment in the Asia-Pacific region.

In brief, the US-Japan-Australia-India security cooperation has changed the strategic relationship in the Asia-Pacific region. The four countries share common interests and have various kinds of cooperation with China, by which they can avoid breaking off the relationship which China. Nevertheless, a hedging strategy also starts to be formed. Competition of the two strategic partnerships is gradually surfacing.

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