Earlier this week Point of Order carried a post by Geoffrey Miller on how Japan under a new security blueprint is doubling its defence spending. The plans see Japan buying up advanced weaponry – including long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles from the US – and spending more on developing hypersonic and cybersecurity technology.
Miller writes that Japan’s new National Security Strategy (NSS) openly calls out China, describing Beijing a ‘matter of serious concern for Japan’ and the ‘greatest strategic challenge’ to the country’s security.
The NSS also alleges China is developing its ‘strategic ties’ with Russia and is seeking to ‘challenge the international order’.
Meanwhile The Economist offers insights into what it defines as “Reinventing the Indo-Pacific”.
It says a new super-region is taking shape, “mainly to counter Chinese aggression”.
The Economist says until a few years ago the term “Indo-Pacific” was hardly uttered in international affairs.
“Now many countries have adopted Indo-Pacific strategies, including America, Australia, Britain, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, and even Mongolia. South Korea joined the pack in December.
“The main Asian holdout is China, which scorns the phrase. That is key to understanding what the Indo-Pacific is all about.
“China’s rise has long been a given. But the countries embracing the Indo-Pacific, nomenclature, most of them more or less democratic, have grown increasingly concerned about China’s coercive tendencies.Australia is a victim of Chinese economic boycotts and insidious political -influence campaigns. Sri Lanka has seen its sovreignty eroded by indebtedness to China under the infrastructure-led Belt and Road initiative.
“Huge Chinese fishing fleets encroach on the territorial waters of states in Asia and beyond.China’s growing fortification of the South China Sea unnerves South-East Asians. Both Japan and India have faced Chinese aggression at their frontiers. Chinese military threats towards Taiwan unsettle not only that self-governing island but the whole region.
“China’s ‘wolf warrior’ diplomacy reflects the nationalist grievances its president, Xi Jinping, is stoking at home. Thus, the Indo-Pacific defines not only a space. It represents the greatest geopolitical challenge: how to respond to Chinese aggression without resorting to ‘capitulation or conflict’.”
The Economist says that challenge has been sharpened by periodic concerns about the capacity and staying power of the United States, the pre-eminent power in the region since the second world war.
“It was Japan, America’s principal ally in Asia, that first divined the importance of engaging traditionally aloof India, a move that helped crystallise the Indo-Pacific concept….Chinese border incursions in the Himalayas have tilted India, once insistent that it would not be part of anti-China bloc, towards the Western camp. It is now a more engaged member of the Quad, not only militarily, but also, for instance, offering to work with the other members to get Covid-19 vaccines to the region. Still, drawing proud, cautious India deep into a Western network of security alliances is going to require a long courtship—assuming it is possible.”
For all the hard power America and India bring to the region, they are largely absent from regional economic initiatives…..
There is also no Indo-Pacific NATO in the making.
So in its concluding paragraph The Economist notes that China’s outgoing foreign minister Wang Yi, once scornfully predicted that that talk of a free and open Indo-Pacific “will dissipate like ocean foam”.
The Economist opines:
“Maybe. Yet the likeliest thing to prove him wrong is China’s own relentlessly provocative behaviour”.
New Zealanders tend to think that because our country lies so deep in the South Pacific it is out of sight (and of mind?), there is little need for defence spending.
Certainly, successive governments have focussed more on China as a market for NZ’s exports. They have been slow to spend money on modern defence equipment.
Is it time, then, for NZ to follow in Japan’s footsteps and start thinking how it can strengthen its security arrangements?
As Point of Order sees it, no time should be lost initially in absorbing the lessons of the war in the Ukraine, and equipping the army with drones and missiles, including, like Japan, long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles.