It’ll be an awkward Christmas in Pyongyang. North Korea said today that Kim Jong-Un’s uncle, Jang Song Thaek, has been executed. The official North Korean news agency KCNA said:
The accused Jang brought together undesirable forces and formed a faction as the boss of a modern day factional group for a long time and thus committed such hideous crime as attempting to overthrow the state…
Peter Hartcher in the SMH on whether Japan, and Australia, are ready for war with China? He writes:
A war between China and Japan would likely draw Australia in, too. The US has repeatedly stressed that the islands, administered by Japan since the 1970s, are covered by the terms of its treaty with Tokyo. If the islands were attacked, the US would be bound to come to Tokyo’s aid. Australia, America’s uniquely reliable ally, would probably join, too.
They’ve been been thinking about this in Tokyo too. Apparently a draft of the new national security strategy, authored by an expert group appointed by PM Shinzo Abe, has recommended that Japan adopt a more muscular posture. Japan will need to … ‘strengthen its own capabilities and expand its own roles’. The draft also includes plans for a new amphibious unit.
More immediately, Abe will appeal to ASEAN leaders over China’s ADIZ, which he sees as also threatening to the sub-region. Meeting at the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit, leaders will discuss a number of issues related to politics, economy, disaster prevention and healthcare, and personnel and cultural exchanges, as well as hold bilaterals alongside the summit. That said, talk of China is sure to dominate.
Still on China, SIPRI has released a new report on China’s North Korea policy. The authors, Mathieu Duchâtel and Phillip Schell, examine whether economic exchanges can help make non‑proliferation measures more effective and revive the disarmament process, concluding that ‘this makes China by far the most important player in securing non‑proliferation and containment, two intermediary goals on the way to North Korea’s denuclearization.’
Also on nuclear issues, CSBA’s Evan Braden Montgomery has a National Interest piece that looks at the future of America’s strategic nuclear deterrent. Taking into account American non-proliferation efforts but also budget cuts, he concludes that America should nonetheless maintain its deterrent:
By shrinking the arsenal and divesting force structure, Washington could find it increasingly difficult to simultaneously preserve strategic stability with a nuclear peer, deter nuclear use by hostile regional powers, and dissuade other nations from building nuclear weapons.
Randy Forbes (chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee and chairman of the Congressional China Caucus) and Michael Auslin have a piece in the WSJ, titled ‘U.S. Power Loses Altitude in Asia’. They write:
Our allies had clearly expected the U.S. to reassert the right of innocent air passage and reject China’s intrusion into other long-established air zones. Instead, Washington has sent mixed messages and failed to convince our allies that it won’t stand for China’s unilateral redrawing of the East Asian skies.
Turning to Southeast Asia, the Clingendael Institute has released a report that captures the debate about Indonesia’s role in democratisation in ASEAN states. Based on a seminar between Clingdael and the Indonesian Embassy in The Hague, the report examines the influence in ASEAN and diplomatic initiatives of our largest neighbour.
The NYT has this piece on the old and new leadership problems facing Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
Finally to our near abroad; Tony Hughes has a useful summary over at DevPolicy of a report on development in Pacific Islands. Understanding the stability of our region is critical to our strategic interests, and if you’re keen to know more, consider watching ASPI’s Peter Jennings and Karl Claxton talk about preserving peace in Bougainville.
Image courtesy of Flickr user (stephan).