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China on its diplomatic heels

November 23, 2011

Diplomats will try to avoid the word containment, but the US has certainly begun to close a loop around maritime China (they still have potential outlets through the Eurasian Heartland):  Expanded US naval presence in Australia and Singapore, F-16s to Indonesia, diplomatic openings with Vietnam and the Philippines, possible inclusion of India in the F-35 program.  India’s Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis continues the list:

That Chinese diplomacy has played right into hands of the US is increasingly being recognized. Chinese threats and bluster have antagonized almost all the nations of East and South East Asia. Alarm bells have been ringing in their respective capitals as to what the Chinese intentions are. Not willing to take any chances on Chinese belligerence, almost all have begun to strengthen their defence networks. Vietnam has increased its defence budget by 70 per cent this year and Indonesia announced a 35 per cent increase in its defence outlay for this year. The Republic of Korea [ROK] is building a large naval base on Jeju Island whose location indicates that it will cater for security in the East China Sea rather than against North Korea. The US has agreed to retrofit 145 Taiwanese F-16 fighters. Similarly, Malaysia and Singapore have increased their defence purchases by a whopping 700 per cent and 140 per cent respectively. There is no doubt that the US-Australia decision to enhance their security profile by stationing 2500 Marines at Darwin is due to the same fears. The Australian decision to sell uranium to India can also be seen in the same light.

Even in the case of India, Chinese ham-handedness and belligerence have led to the addition of two new divisions for the Indian army to be deployed along the Sino-Indian border region. The US, Japan and India are to have a trilateral security dialogue by the end of this year followed by joint Indo-Japan naval exercises in 2012.

The only point I would make is that this will end up being a containment dominated by a quadrilateral power set, not trilateral – add Australia to the mix and the trio of Japan, India and Australia form the points of a geographic triangle of containment, with the US acting as an offshore balancer and working to bring the smaller nations of maritime South and East Asia into the effort.

This effort was obvious even to me, as an amateur observer, but kudos nonetheless to the State Department for setting it in motion to such effect thus far.

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