MH17: Options available for Malaysia


July 22, 2014

MH17: Options available for Malaysia

Munir Majidby Tan Sri Dr. Munir Majid@www.thestar.com.my

Malaysia should work in this alliance of states to bring this crime against humanity to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Malaysia has not signed the Rome Statute of the ICC, but has ex­­press­­ed interest to do so since March 2011. Malaysia should sign it now.

MH17 Crash Site 3

MOUNTING evidence points to Ukrainian separatist and Russian responsibility in the shooting down of MH17. And, in­­deed, video shots as clear as daylight show the Russian-supported rebels stealing and looting at the wreckage, tampering with and era­sing eviden­ce of the grisly deed, carrying away the black box – and unconscionably carting away and refusing to hand over the dead bo­dies for identification and decent burial.

Given our inability to strike back hard, the options Malaysia has in response to the downing of MH17 are limited to diplomatic and legal measures. To make these measures effective, the plan of action must be well prepared: form an alliance of victim nations and pursue the perpetrators vigorously.

The options Malaysia has, given limited power and influence, will be subjected to international geopolitical considerations and the vagaries of international legal process. How­ever, it does not mean we are po­wer­less to do anything except to confine ourselves to big, loud statements.

We can seek the support of kindred spirits to bring to justice the perpetrators who downed MH17 with the BUK (SA-11) surface-to-air missile. An alliance of victim na­­­-tions, comprising countries such as the Netherlands and Australia, should be formed. States willing to support the investigation into the horrible act of terror, even if it was a mistake, should be engaged.

This alliance should be collecting its own evidence from now. It actions should not wait for an international investigation which looks unlikely to be unimpeded. The United Nations can condemn and call for an international investigation. These resolutions, as we know, are more often than not disregarded.

MH17 Crash Site 4

Free access to the area where the wreckage and mutilated bodies are strewn has been denied. Evidence from the crashed plane has been re­­moved. Even if the black box would only register the explosion when the aircraft was struck and even if the BUK missile self-destructs on impact, there are voice and communications recordings which would be relevant. So why has the black box been taken away?

At the same time, people in the rebel-held territory of the Ukraine have looted the wreckage, the common crime of thievery following a heinous crime against humanity.

All these acts – from the firing of the missile to the removal of evidence to the denial of access to the looting – violate clear rules of international law. Even if it cannot be positively identified who fired the missile and rebels who have trespassed the law will not be released, the available evidence points the finger at Russia.

Russia provides the arms. Russia protects the rebels. Russia helps them violate international law and the sanctity of the victims. Russia calls the shots.The intercepted conversations, first on the firing of the missile and its aftermath and next on the remo­val of evidence and bodies at Russian behest should be tested for their authenticity.

When confirmed, it is good evidence to go by in the process of bringing the perpetrators to justice. American intelligence reports now show the trajectory of the missile and, subsequently, the transportation of remaining missiles back into Russian territory.

The Chicago convention of the International Civil Aviation Organi­sation (ICAO) provides clear rules on the conduct of investigation, on the safety of civil air flight and against the tampering of evidence.

The Ukrainian government, although it does not control the expanse of territory where the aircraft came down, has been making numerous statements about the removal of evidence and rebel use with Russian aid of the BUK missiles, which had downed at least two of its military aircraft. It should hand over what evidence it has.

In the case where Korean Airlines Flight KAL007 was shot down on September 1, 1983 by a Soviet SU-15 interceptor jet, the ICAO condemned the attack. The United States Federal Avia­­­tion Authority revoked the li­cence of the Soviet airliner Aeroflot to fly to and from the US, a denial that was not lifted until April 29, 1986.

Similar sanctions should be considered by ICAO, the US and other countries in the case of MH17 amidst the mounting evidence pointing at Russia and the consequences of its actions. There should be no fear to act against a country in the horrible wrong, which might otherwise not just get away with it but would conspire to violate further international norms of behaviour.

Vladimir Putin has brought Russia back to the Soviet Union days of lies and deceit, threat and bluster, coupled with his own megalomania. Putin is a bully, a thug world leaders find extremely difficult to deal with. At a meeting with Angela Merkel in 2007, his Labrador Koni was allowed in to unnerve the German Chancel­lor, who was bitten by a dog in the early years of her life.

The black arts operate at the Kremlin. It is little wonder that thuggish behaviour at the centre sends signals for drunken gangsterism among rebels Putin supports.

With KAL007, the Soviet Union suppressed evidence which was not released until eight years later, following the collapse of the communist regime. Now there is another re­gime seeking to resurrect that control of people, territories and information with no regard for the rights and lives of others. This is unacceptable.

Whatever evidence is available should be examined for the pursuit of civil damages for the acts of violation and denial. A group led by the Dutch, who suffered the most number of deaths in this act of terror, should be set up to pursue this line of action. Malaysia Airlines, whose reputation in the industry has been severely but unjustly damaged, should join in this effort to extract some measure of recompense.

More importantly, Malaysia should work in this alliance of states to bring this crime against humanity to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Malaysia has not signed the Rome Statute of the ICC, but has ex­­press­­ed interest to do so since March 2011. Malaysia should sign it now.

It can then join forces with states such as the Netherlands and Austra­lia, who are signatories, to institute legal action against individuals and agencies in the Ukraine and Russia, who are also signatories.

Let’s be realistic. After the initial shock-horror reactions, states will return to tending to their own affairs to serve their own national interests and, in time, will not be so incensed by murderous violation of international safety, violation of laws, and acts of brazen and drunken thuggery.

Even now, despite his most welcome strong support and call for ASEAN solidarity with Malaysia, Pre­sident Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono cannot be expected to put Indonesian interests second. Indeed his spokesman said Indonesian relations with Russia were excellent and there was no reason to disturb them.

The Chinese ambassador at the UN advised caution and not jumping to conclusions, as the Security Coun­cil issued a statement last Friday con­­­­demning the attack on MH17 and called, in hope more than expectation, for full, thorough and independent investiga­tion.

It would have been a diffe­rent statement if most of the passengers had been Chinese, or Chinese inte­rests were damaged and at risk. This is the way of the world. Malaysia must look after its own interests.

When it is stated we want to bring the perpetrators to justice, we must be clear on how we might get there. We should be clear about the avenues open to us and about states sharing a common interest who can be persuaded to act with us. We should determine our options and how we might realise them.

We owe it (how often this is said) to the victims and to our national airline which has suffered so much, maybe fatally this time, to bring the perpetrators to justice. We must show these are not mere words that are uttered lightly. We have the duty to protect our citizens and to ensure safe passage of our vessels in accordance with international law and practices.

The downing of MH17 is a tragedy of horrific proportions. We grieve. But we must also do something about it to get at the evil perpetrators. It is a matter of national interest and honour.

Tan Sri Dr Munir Majid is Visiting Senior Fellow with LSE IDEAS, a centre for the study of international affairs, diplomacy and grand strategy. He is also chairman of CARI and Bank Muamalat. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

 

Why was MH17 flying through a war zone, asks Tony Gosling


July 20, 2014

Why was MH17 flying through a war zone where 10 aircraft have been shot down?

by Tony Gosling

Beginning his working life in the aviation industry and trained by the BBC, Tony Gosling is a British land rights activist, historian & investigative radio journalist.

Published time: July 18, 2014 10:06
A journalist takes photographs at the site of Thursday's Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash near the settlement of Grabovo, in the Donetsk region July 18, 2014 (Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev)

A journalist takes photographs at the site of Thursday’s Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash near the settlement of Grabovo, in the Donetsk region July 18, 2014 (Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev)

Put yourself in the position of a certain passenger boarding the Malaysian Airlines flight at Amsterdam for the twelve hour trip to Kuala Lumpur on Thursday morning.

Given a previous Malaysian flight’s mysterious disappearance it’s likely he was not the only boarding passenger who was a little nervous when he joked on social media, “If we disappear, this is what the plane looks like.”

Settling down on the flight then watching the moving map display on the seat in front, you might perhaps see the word ‘Ukraine’ edge its way across from the right of the screen. Would you not be a little uneasy in the knowledge that quite a lot of planes have been blown out of the skies there recently? That there’s a war on?

Check out David Cenciotti’s ‘Aviationist’ blog and you’ll see that 10 aircraft have been shot down in eastern Ukraine in recent weeks. Five MI-24 Hind and two MI-8 Hip helicopters, as well as military transport planes, one AN-2 and an AN-30. On July 8, the latest transporter, an Il-76 was shot down at Lugansk when the State Aviation Administration of Ukraine closed their airspace indefinitely to civilian aircraft. But why did the air traffic control regulators keep directing planes over eastern Ukrainian territory at higher altitudes?

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but on any of hundreds of flights over Ukraine in the past month I might even have been tempted to tug the sleeve of one of the cabin staff. Asking them brusquely to get reassurance from the captain straight away that we would not be passing through the very airspace where so many planes had so recently been brought down.

So what was the plane doing there?

Malaysian Airlines was quick to point out that the Ukraine war zone had been declared ‘safe’ for them to fly over by the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Was this the same authority that was party to closing Europe and the North Atlantic for almost a week for Eyjafjallajökull’s ‘volcanic ash cloud’ drifting out of Iceland? Canceling the flights of around 10 million passengers? Yet they fail to close a war zone where they know ground-to-air missiles are flying around?

I do hope ICAO Regional Director Luis Fonseca de Almeida will apologize in person to all the victims’ families before he resigns and hands himself in for questioning. Of course, this is not the only arm of the UN and other parts of global governance to be failing, crippled, and where the people appointed to run it seem to be pliable stooges rather than independent-minded enough to be up to the job? Let’s hope too that the Malaysian authorities will heed the voices in their professions warning against relying too much on help from international bodies which may be used against them.

As for who’s responsible, it’s unlikely the shooting down was a random ‘pot shot’ by Ukrainian separatists who would have nothing to gain and only further isolate themselves by such an act. There are also doubts as to whether they have access to this sort of weapon system, more advanced than any that appears to have been used so far. Which is presumably why ICAO and Malaysian Airlines thought 30,000-foot high airliners were safe from shoulder-launched missiles.

Appearing on BBC TV’s Newsnight, weapon systems expert Doug Richardson said the relatively high altitude airliners fly at offers “no protection” from what he believes was probably a former Soviet ‘Buk’ missile, developed in the 1970s, that did the dirty deed.

Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev

Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev

Shot across bows of Russian presidential jet?

Then there is the proximity of the MH17 shoot-down to Russian President Vladimir Putin himself, who happened to be flying home, west to east, from Brazil. Russia’s equivalent to Air Force One, the Ilyushin-96 ‘Board One’ was roughly half-an-hour’s flying time, about 200 miles (320km), behind the Malaysian plane as it passed near Warsaw just before the doomed jet entered Ukrainian airspace, which the presidential jet avoided.

As the Western powers’ anti-Russian sanctions are failing to bite and the Kiev government they back is losing on the ground, this may indicate a NATO motive for the attack. If so this sort of audacious act may also be an early test of loyalties by the West’s power elite of Britain’s new Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Defense Secretary Michael Fallon. The message being, “Watch that you don’t get any troublesome ideas of making your own minds up on the matter.”

The timing of the attack is intriguing too, being the day after a historic agreement Putin signed, along with Chinese president Xi Jinping, in the Brazilian city of Fortaleza to create a BRICS World Development Bank.  Quite possibly the greatest challenge since Bretton Woods in 1944, to the dubious monopoly of the World Bank, was indeed signed on Wednesday by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

For those that muse on the obsessive nature of those that spend their lives pursuing ever more money until the day they die, there is a shocking recent history of nations and their leaders coming to a sticky end that dare to oppose the global monopoly of the petrodollar, and that of the enforcers at the World Bank and IMF.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein didn’t know what fate lay ahead when he announced in November 2000 that he was taking the first steps toward setting up a bourse, or oil exchange, which traded in euro rather than dollars. Two-and-a-half years later, weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist had been ‘found’ in his country and the bombs were raining down, Saddam and his fellow countrymen was illegally invaded under orders from Messrs. Bush and Blair and the nation plunged into the sort of chaotic hell which is now spreading like a plague around the Middle East and from which one wonders if it will ever emerge.

Similarly when debt-free Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi and his shuttle diplomacy had secured agreement from enough African leaders to announce the creation of an African reserve currency, the African gold dinar, he found his country up in front of the United Nations Security Council on a fabricated charge of ‘bombing his own people’. On May 1, 2011, the weekend of William & Kate’s royal wedding in London, one of Gaddafi’s sons and three of his grandsons were blown to pieces in an airstrike and NATO began to bomb the country – blessed with the lowest infant mortality rate on the African continent – back to the Stone Age.

Although no ground troops were allowed by the UN, mercenaries were sent in, and on October 21, Gaddafi was finally executed with a bayonet up his backside. National governments in the West these days really do seem to have become an irrelevant side show when the power of the military dances to the tune of the unrestrained mega-resourced muscle of the IMF and its friends.

Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev

Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev

Why Malaysian Airlines?

‘To lose one plane may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness.’ Though it might seem trite to borrow from Oscar Wilde’s ‘Importance of Being Earnest’, is it really pure coincidence that both this and the March ‘disappearance’ of MH370 have been with unfortunate Malaysian jets? Neither appears to have been an ‘accident’, so could both be acts of aggression, acts of war against Malaysia? If so why, and by whom?

Malaysia is a genuinely independent nation torn between East and West. Like Ukraine and so many other medium-sized independent countries, Malaysia is finding it very difficult to stay independent. As the world inches towards what many believe may become an enormous world war, brought on by the collapse of capitalism, it is becoming increasingly impossible for small and medium-sized nations to remain independent. So yes, there is likely to be pressure on the Malaysian leadership to make alliances and this, perhaps, could simply be an attempt to intimidate, to force their hand.

It’s comforting to repeat that nobody wants an economic collapse and nobody wants a world war, but it wouldn’t be the first time that ruling elites have deployed these two chestnuts as a ‘double whammy’. Making a fortune out of a crash is easy when you can see it coming and, as well as being an archaic ‘human sacrifice’ to the old gods, war is the best way to distract everybody who might be thinking of locking you up. For anyone who dares to look, the evidence is there that the US decided to step up the projection of their already ruinous military power at the time of the 9/11 attacks, probably as a reaction to the waning power of the dollar.

As Staff Sergeant Jimmy Massey, part of Iraq Veterans Against the War and of the US chapter of Veterans For Peace, said when interviewed for Venezuelan State Television, “There are no rules, this is World War III. The rule book went out the window on September 11th.[2001].”

As a regular attendee at US Marine Corps intelligence briefings Jimmy was in a position to know rather more than the West’s public, media or politicians do about how far down the mission line covert policies of the White House and Pentagon have crept.

And here’s the rub. Malaysia are one of the world’s feircest opponents of the phoney ‘war on terror’, former Malaysian Federal Court judge Abdul Kadir Sulaiman even convening a tribunal in 2011 to try Bush and Blair for war crimes. Endorsed by former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad the tribunal found: “Unlawful use of force threatens the world to return to a state of lawlessness. The acts of the accused were unlawful.” Malaysia has done what the UN and The Hague’s International Criminal Court dare not.

European and North American countries have realized too late in the day that only by keeping stiff exchange controls can they stay sovereign nations. Without them international finance capital will move in with infinite resources to destroy everything that stands in its way, from media to parliaments, nothing can withstand them. Even the courts now are finally about to be co-opted into the service of the tax evading transnational corporations should the secretly-negotiated Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) be signed later this year.

The courts will then be theirs to overturn any parliamentary decision the corporations don’t like, and they have been saving up lots and lots of cash to pay the very best lawyers in the world, to make sure they win.

The site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash is seen in the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 17, 2014. (Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev)

The site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash is seen in the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 17, 2014. (Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev)

No shortage of people who’ll shoot down an airliner for you

With the privatization of war in the West, points out UK charity War On Want, “repeated human rights abuses” are being “perpetrated by mercenaries, including the indiscriminate killing of civilians and torture. Unaccountable and unregulated, these companies are complicit in human rights abuses across the world, putting profit before people and fanning the flames of war.”

So if you want somebody to fight a nuclear war, conduct a massacre, or shoot down an airliner for you nowadays you can buy those services on the free market. The proliferation of private military companies since 9/11 suits the military industrial complex very nicely, thank you.

But how has the world come to the point where such companies have state protection and business is, quite literally, booming?

The problem again, is the global banking giants who have been shown in court, time and time again, to be hand in glove with the intelligence services and international drug cartels. Whether it’s Iran Contra with drugs flying one way and guns the other, or HSBC’s piffling $2 billion fine in 2012 for money laundering, they are not just criminals who are above the law, they are now shaping it in their own private interest.

It is not just the Asian, Pacific and South American power blocs they seek to control who will be watching them, but their own people, those they depend on to survive. With every evil act they think they’ve got away with, they are painting themselves into a corner as the Trans-Atlantic edifice they are trying to control crumbles beneath them.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Malaysia can’t afford a botched handling of MH17


July 20, 2014

MY COMMENTWe have been hit by two tragedies, MH 370 and MH 17 a few days ago,Din Merican both within a space of four months. MH370 is still shrouded in secrecy and  it is a public relations disaster; our leaders and public and security officials handled the foreign media poorly. MH17 was brought down by Russian made missiles in the hands of Ukrainian rebels backed by  Prime Minister Putin’s government. Our political leaders and officials are again in the eyes of media. Let them handle the situation better this time.

Those who are behind this dastardly violence must be brought to account. Our diplomats and those of countries which lost their citizens and the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon must act in concert to ascertain the facts about the downing of this ill-fated 777 aircraft. At home, the new Transport Minister has to ensure that there are no cover-ups, blame games, excuses, and conflicting or contradictory statements. Please provide facts as they come to light, and do it well and ensure that there are no fumbles.

I am glad that our Prime Minister has allowed debate in our Parliament on MH37. I hope Parliamentarians on both sides of Dewan Rakyat can be rational and constructive in their deliberations so that we can achieve consensus on what we should do to restore national self confidence and pride in our national flag carrier, Malaysian Airlines.

No shouting matches please. Bung Mokhtar types must not be allowed to disrupt the debate or make fools of themselves. In this time of national crisis, UMNO-BN and Pakatan Rakyat must stand together. The debate should result in a plan of action for the government. To nudge the debate along orderly lines, there should be a White Paper to Parliament on MH17 in which the government can present its views on what it has its mind to deal with the aftermath of MH 17.Din Merican

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-07-18/malaysia-can-t-botch-another-air-tragedy

Malaysia can’t afford a botched handling of MH17

by William Pesek (07-18-14)

There’s nothing funny about Malaysia Airlines losing two Boeing 777s and more than 500 lives in the space of four months. That hasn’t kept the humor mills from churning out dark humor and lighting up cyberspace.

Liow_Tiong_Lai-MH17_PC

Actor Jason Biggs, for example, got in trouble for tweeting: “Anyone wanna buy my Malaysia Airlines frequent flier miles?” A passenger supposedly among the 298 people aboard Flight 17 that was shot down over eastern Ukraine yesterday uploaded a photo of the doomed plane on Facebook just before takeoff in Amsterdam, captioning it: “Should it disappear, this is what it looks like.”

That reference, by a man reportedly named Cor Pan, was to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, whose disappearance in March continues to provide fodder for satirists, conspiracy theorists and average airplane passengers with a taste for the absurd. On my own Malaysia Air flight last month, I was struck by all the fatalistic quips around me — conversations I overheard and in those with my fellow passengers. One guy deadpanned: “First time I ever bought flight insurance.”

MH17 CrashThere is, of course, no room for humor after this disaster or the prospect that the money-losing airline might not survive — at least not without a government rescue. This company had already become a macabre punch line, something no business can afford in the Internet and social-media age. It’s one thing to have a perception problem; it’s quite another to have folks around the world swearing never to fly Malaysia Air.

Nor is no margin for mistakes by Malaysia or the airline this time, even though all signs indicate that there is no fault on the part of the carrier. The same can’t be said for the bumbling and opacity that surrounded the unexplained loss of Flight 370. Even if there was no negligence on the part of Malaysia Air this week, the credibility of the probe and the willingness of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government to cooperate with outside investigators — tests it failed with Flight 370 — will be enormously important.

As I have written before, the botched response to Flight 370 was a case study in government incompetence and insularity. After six decades in power, Najib’s party isn’t used to being held accountable by voters, never mind foreign reporters demanding answers. Rather than understand that transparency would enhance its credibility, Malaysia’s government chose to blame the international press for impugning the country’s good name.

The world needs to be patient, of course. If Flight 370’s loss was puzzling, even surreal, Flight 17 is just MH 17plain tragic. It’s doubtful Najib ever expected to be thrown into the middle of Russian-Ukraine-European politics. Although there are still so many unanswered questions — who exactly did the shooting and why? — it’s depressing to feel like we’re revisiting the Cold War of the early 1980s, when Korean Air Flight 007 was shot down by a Soviet fighter jet.

More frightening is how vulnerable civilian aviation has become. Even if this is the work of pro-Russian rebels, yesterday’s attack comes a month after a deadly assault on a commercial jetliner in Pakistan. One passenger was killed and two flight attendants were injured as at least 12 gunshots hit Pakistan International Airlines Flight PK-756 as it landed in the northwestern city of Peshawar. It was the first known attack of its kind and raises the risk of copycats. The low-tech nature of such assaults — available to anyone with a gripe, a high-powered rifle and decent marksmanship — is reason for the entire world to worry.

The days ahead will be filled with post-mortems and assigning blame. That includes aviation experts questioning why Malaysia Air took a route over a war zone being avoided by Qantas, Cathay Pacific and several other carriers. The key is for Malaysian authorities to be open, competent and expeditious as the investigation gains momentum. Anything less probably won’t pass muster.

ASEAN political-security community challenges


July 13, 2014

ASEAN political-security community challenges

Munir Majidby Tan Sri Dr. Munir Majid@www.thestar.com.my (07-12-14)

 THE People’s ASEAN would not be a reality if the politics is not right – both the domestic political systems in which the people live and the wider regional order that underpins the peace, stability and prosperity of their lives.

Economic Growth and Political Rights

As ASEAN member states are increasingly discovering, the previous contention that economic growth andASEAN_logo_1 benefit will satisfy citizens without need to be over-excited about political rights, is wearing thin. That model does not work any more, if it ever did. Certainly, if nothing else, the ICT revolution and social media have provided a shared marketplace of experiences in political societies across the globe. It is no longer possible to pull the wool over people’s eyes. So state authorities have to get smart to it, whatever political system they profess.

In this connection, the notion of an ASEAN political-security community (APSC) is apposite. The APSC blueprint actually is hard to be faulted. Whoever writes these things, and those who adopt them, must really know what’s happening around them, even if they do not quite come along in action against their profession in words.

Read this: The APSC… ”will ensure that the peoples and member states of ASEAN live in peace with one another and with the world at large in a just, democratic and harmonious environment.” Some more: “The ASEAN states will offer democracy, rule of law and good governance, and will ensure respect for the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedom”.

All good intention. However, even if this is all aspiration, it stretches credulity when it is observed how some states in ASEAN have stagnated as communist regimes, others have regressed into persecution and murder of minorities and workers, and yet another has introduced draconian religious laws.

APSC and Human Rights

Little wonder then that there is so much cynicism about, for example, the ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) set up in 2009 under the auspices of the APSC “to promote and protect human rights.” Where in ASEAN, through the AICHR, are human rights being protected on their violation?

It is in their promotion that refuge is taken. Even so, the promotion is gentle. Go to the AICHR web-site and you will see many pictures celebrating numerous workshops to promote human rights. More ASEAN meetings while religious minorities are being persecuted and put to the sword in enough ASEAN member states.

These are all difficult situations to handle no doubt. ASEAN Foreign Ministers try to discuss the Rohingyas issue but Myanmar would not have it, and will only do so on a bilateral basis with states facing refugee problems as a consequence of its human rights violations. And it comes to pass.

Well, the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948, and where has the world been? Rwanda-Burundi, Bosnia, Syria, Palestine… the list is endless and the suffering never-ending. So why pick on ASEAN? But, shall we say, ASEAN is talking about community-building and higher standards of commitments to good governance? Therefore, there is every reason to hold ASEAN to a better protection on human rights and treatment of citizens.

The laudable objectives of the APSC, and in the setting up of the AICHR, should not be left on the shelf as we approach the end of 2014. The blueprint itself provides for biennial review. This review process should be reported and be held in a more open fashion, with the participation of representatives of civil society, who must however appreciate the issues of state sovereignty and ASEAN cohesion.

The hard question is not how to put aspiration down in words but how to implement it in difficult situations and circumstances. That review process should come up with creative ideas of making the words turn into at least some action, at least in respect of protection of human rights, and not just kick the matter to long grass by having more workshops and meetings to study it.

ASEAN, China and South China Sea

South China Sea

When it comes to international relations and the wider regional order, the gap between verbal exhortation and actual action is just as wide. For the longest time, ASEAN behaved as if there was no serious situation arising from the South China Sea disputes. And when ASEAN got real about it, emboldened China would suggest, it was only after US intercession. This was not good for relations with China or for the resolution of the dispute.

While no doubt there is a grave threat of the outbreak of conflict, especially from various stand-offs between China and Vietnam, China with the Philippines, the damage already done is to China-ASEAN relations. These have been extremely beneficial economically for the region. Their further development could be retarded by this “spoiler”, not to mention the threat it poses to existing economic links.

Of course, if there was actual conflict, it is something else again. We will be in new territory of uncertainty, suspicion and fear which, as we know, are bad bedfellows for investment and economic activity.

Against these near existential threats, ASEAN has been reticent and not united in addressing the South China Sea disputes. Whereas, in the APSC blueprint, it is clearly stated ASEAN will seek full implementation of the Declaration of Conduct (DOC) of States of 2002 and the establishment of a binding code of conduct under the declaration in the South China Sea.

Has there been any urgency to achieve all this before matters came to a head, before America got more involved again in regional affairs and, yes, before China got more assertive with its claims? It could be charged that ASEAN’s desultory approach has carried a cost to the stability of the regional order.

ASEAN is, of course, not one unit, it is only inter-governmental, but it makes claims for itself and gives false hope of its effectiveness by proclaiming all sorts of things in so many words, including this blessed thing about ASEAN centrality in the regional architecture. These last six exact words are to be found word for word in the blueprint and, indeed, have been repeated countless times at diplomatic convocations where those who know very well this is not the case repeat it for ASEAN’s happiness.

The APSC blueprint has been too extravagant, especially measured against ASEAN inaction. Not just on the South China Sea, but also in other pronounced areas such as conflict resolution mechanisms and the pacific settlement of disputes in the broader context.

ASEAN-a great economic prospect but...

ASEAN is a great prospect, especially its economies. But the market does not buy on prospective earnings indefinitely. If that was the case, it would be buying Latin America which, in terms of total economic size (against ASEAN’s combined much touted 7th largest in the world) is three times the Indian or Russian economy, and almost as large as China or Japan.

The point is ASEAN does have great prospect, but it will not come of itself. There has to be a more realistic mission statement, better structure and management – and better managers. Then the prospective earnings ratio might even rise.

So there has to be a reset and a rethink about how ASEAN can improve performance against all its limitations. But not just among government leaders and officials. And not to be assigned to some council of elders who would come back some years later with a document even older. It has to be fresh and dynamic involving people with ideas from all levels of society.

Yes, ultimately the political leaders of the region would decide – based however on a good and realistic plan for the future of the People’s ASEAN.

 Tan Sri Dr Munir Majid, chairman of Bank Muamalat and visiting senior fellow at LSE Ideas (Centre for International Affairs, Diplomacy and Strategy), is also chairman of CIMB ASEAN Research Institute. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.

 

America Broke Iraq: Three Lessons for Washington


July 7, 2014

America Broke Iraq: Three Lessons for Washington

http://nationalinterest.org/feature/america-broke-iraq-three-lessons-washington-10785?page=show

“Americans should absorb one painful lesson: because Americans are full of good intentions, they are incapable of occupying other countries. America should get out of this business completely.

Even the UN does a better job of managing countries in transitionAmerica should get out of the business of invasion and occupation.”

Mahbubani2By Kishore Mahbubani*, The National Interest (July 1, 2014)

Colin Powell put it clearly and succinctly:”If you break it, you own it.” America broke Iraq. America owns Iraq. This is how the rest of the world sees it. This is also why the world is mystified by the current Obama-Cheney debate. Both these camps are saying, “You did it.” Actually both the camps should say, “We did it.”

The tragedy about this divisive debate is that America is missing a great opportunity to reflect on a big and fundamental question: why is America so bad at the simple task of invading and occupying countries? Surely, the American invasion and occupation of Iraq will go down in history as one of the most botched operations of its kind. America spent $4 trillion, lost thousands of American lives and millions of Iraqi lives, and at the end of the day, achieved nothing. Since the failure was so catastrophic, why not at least try to learn some valuable lessons from it? There are at least three lessons that scream for attention.

Dick-Cheney-and-Barack-Ob-001Cheney-Obama Debate a Lost Cause–Iraq in a Mess

The first lesson is the folly of good intentions. Let’s be clear about one thing: >Americans are not evil people.They do not conquer countries to rape, pillage and loot. Instead, they conquer countries to help the people. President George W. Bush’s goal was to set up a stable, functioning Iraqi democracy, not to set up an American colony in perpetuity. The British colonial rulers of Iraq in the early twentieth century would have been totally mystified by these good intentions. And they would have been even more flummoxed by the methods used to achieve these good intentions. For example, the British would preserve local institutions, not destroy them.

The last successful American occupation was the occupation of Japan. MacArthur wisely preserved Japanese institutions-including Emperor Hirohito, despite his role in the war. By contrast, America destroyed both Saddam’s army and his Ba’ath party at the beginning, thereby condemning the occupation to failure. Some Americans believed they could manage Iraq because American governance was inherently superior.

Bremer with bootsPaul Bremer (wearing his big boots) assumed he could rule Iraq effortlessly with his big boots, without ever being aware that his big boots were culturally offensive. This American trait of supreme self-confidence in running other societies is not new. When I lived in Phnom Penh in 1973-74 forty years ago, I witnessed firsthand how a young, inexperienced American diplomat would walk into the offices of the Cambodian Economic Minister and give him daily instructions from Washington, DC on how to run the Cambodian economy.

What was the result of this? The Cambodian leaders felt powerless to govern their own society. There is a paradox here. One strength of American culture is that it empowers people. But when America takes over another society, it disempowers it. This happened in Iraq, too. So after the disastrous management of Cambodia and South Vietnam and of Afghanistan and Iraq, Americans should absorb one painful lesson: because Americans are full of good intentions, they are incapable of occupying other countries. America should get out of this business completely. Even the UN does a better job of managing countries in transition.

The second lesson is to avoid over reliance on the American military.Obama said it well:”Just because we have the best hammer, does not mean that every problem is a nail.” Future historians of the American century will spend a lot of time scratching their leads over a difficult conundrum: how did the relatively peaceful people of America become so trigger-happy in their external adventures?

The simple lesson of Iraq and Afghanistan and of Cambodia and South Vietnam is that guns alone do not work. This is why the recent American debate about Syria is so bewildering. Both sides were debating one question-to bomb or not to bomb Syria? But bombing would have solved nothing. And it was equally unwise for America to make a unilateral announcement on August 18, 2011 that “Assad must go”. Almost three years later, he is still in office.

All debates in America inevitably become black and white. Assad is black. His opponents must be white. Therefore, kill the bad guys-this appears to be the only solution. In many parts of the Middle East the choice is between black and black (or, more accurately, between various shades of grey). To bring “peace”, America will have to learn to deal with and shake hands with people who are not American boy scouts.

All this leads to the obvious third lesson: strengthen American diplomacy. Let me start with one painful fact obvious to many in the rest of the world: American diplomacy has deteriorated. In my thirty-three-year career with the Singapore Foreign Service from 1971-2004, I witnessed this firsthand. The reasons for deterioration are obvious. Organizations attract young talent when they can promise the best jobs at the end of their hardworking and dedicated careers. But if all that a young American diplomat can aspire to after three decades of service is to be the Ambassador to Ouagadougou or Kabul (with London and Paris being completely out of the equation), why stay on?

One counterargument I have heard is that the strong American private sector makes up for the weak public sector. A weak State Department, for example, is compensated by strong think tanks. This is true, but it creates a deeper mystery: how can America have the best strategic think tanks and strategic thinkers and yet have the worst strategic thinking in invading and occupying other countries? So this is the time for Americans to have the obvious epiphany: America should get out of the business of invasion and occupation. Four decades of failure have provided enough evidence to prove that the American people are far too good to do this job.

*Kishore Mahbubani is Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS, and author of The Great Convergence: Asia, the West, and the Logic of One World, which was listed by the Financial Times in its ‘Books of the Year’ list, 2013.

China’s James Shoal Claim: Malaysia the Undisputed Owner


July 4, 2014

RSIS Commentaries

RSIS presents the following commentary China’s James Shoal Claim: Malaysia the Undisputed Owner by B.A.Hamzah.  Kindly forward any comments or feedback to the Editor RSIS Commentaries, at RSIS Publication@ntu.edu.sg.

No. 122/2014 dated 1 July 2014

China’s James Shoal Claim: Malaysia the Undisputed Owner

By B.A.Hamzah

Synopsis

Malaysia owns James Shoal, a submerged feature that is within its continental shelf. Being one thousand nautical miles from Hainan, James Shoal is outside the continental shelf of China; it is also outside the continental shelf of Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Indonesia.

Commentary

James Shoal

JAMES SHOAL, a feature that is permanently 22 metres (66 feet) under water in the South China Sea, should not have attracted public attention regionally but for geopolitics and ignorance of international law. Malaysians have been alarmed by recent reports of vessels of the People’s Republic of China Liberation Army (Navy), gathering and celebrating above the feature on more than one occasion.

China cannot appropriate any submerged features that are not part of its continental shelf and in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). James Shoal is more than 1,000 nautical miles (nm) from Hainan, well outside China’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and not part of its continental shelf.

James Shoal and International Law

The whole affair could have been quietly resolved if the PLA Navy commanders acknowledged the international law governing a permanently submerged feature, embedded to the continental shelf of a coastal state. Unlike islands, rocks and low-tide elevations, permanently submerged features, cannot generate any maritime zone under international law.

Islands are entitled to a belt of territorial sea, continental shelf and EEZ. Low-tide Elevations (LTEs), on the other hand, belong to the state in whose territorial sea they are located. LTEs can be used to draw the state’s baseline if they are located within its 12 nm territorial sea.

Map 2--James ShoalMap showing the limit of proposed extended continental shelf of Vietnam and Malaysia jointly submitted to the United Nations Commission on Limits of Continental Shelf (CLCS) in May 2009.

International law defines continental shelf as a natural extension of a country’s landmass to a distance of 200 nm (maximum 350 nm). Drawn from the mainland or any of its islands in the South China Sea, the continental shelf of China is well short of James Shoal. Similarly, contrary to some suggestions, James Shoal is also not part of the extended continental shelf of Vietnam, the Philippines or Taiwan.

In May 2009, Vietnam and Malaysia put up a Joint submission on the Extended Continental Shelf to the UN Committee on the Limit of Continental Shelf (CLCS) whereby Vietnam acknowledged that James Shoal is not part of its extended continental shelf.

James Shoal is 500 nm from Pagasa Island in the Spratlys that the Philippines has occupied since 1971. The Shoal is more than 400 nm from Itu Aba, an island that Taiwan has occupied since 1956. James Shoal is also outside Brunei’s extended maritime zone which the 2009 Letter of Exchange Brunei had with Malaysia attested to. In 1969, Malaysia and Indonesia signed a Treaty on the continental shelf, off Tanjung Datu, Sarawak, which has placed James Shoal on the Malaysian side.

Contiguity not an issue

Map--James Shoal2Map showing limits of EEZ in the Spratlys

James Shoal, located 63 nm from the nearest base point (Batuan Likau) on Sarawak coast, is embedded in the continental shelf of Malaysia and within its EEZ. Although the feature is nearer to Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur’s ownership of James Shoal is not premised on geographical contiguity but on customary international law. In the Island of Palmas (or Miangas) (United States v. The Netherlands), Arbitral Award, 1928 Judge Huber stated, “it is impossible to show the existence of a rule of positive international law” on contiguity to “the effect that islands situated outside territorial waters should belong to the state”.

China claims James Shoal is within the disputed nine-dash line boundary which China has drawn, incorporating close to ninety percent of the South China Sea, and overlapping with the maritime domains of five other states (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam) as well as Taiwan.

Some experts believe China did not even know of the existence of James Shoal as a submerged feature when it drew the controversial nine-dash line maritime boundary over it in 1947/1948. After all, China was not the first state to conduct any physical survey of the maritime area. Besides, there is no evidence that China discovered and administered the feature.

The British discovered James Shoal

The British discovered the Shoal and its two nearby features (Parsons’ Shoal and Lydie Shoal) in the early 19th Century via many of its surveys. James Shoal first appeared on the British Admiralty Chart in the 1870s; China renamed the feature (as Tseng Mu Reef) circa 1947/1948 (1912 in some documents), when it published the nine-dash line.

The only possibility for China to “acquire” the feature, according to some experts, is via cut- and-paste method. While the international law recognises five traditional methods of territorial acquisition, the cut- and- paste method is not one of them.

The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and 1958 Geneva Convention on the Continental Shelf (Malaysia and China subscribe to both Treaties) stipulate, “The rights of a costal state over the continental shelf do not depend on occupation, effective or notional, or in any express proclamation”. In other words, Malaysia does not have to do anything under UNCLOS to own the submerged feature that is embedded on its continental shelf.

Malaysia’s extensive activities on James Shoal

This notwithstanding, Malaysia has effectively asserted its jurisdiction over its continental shelf including the areas in and around James Shoal, Parson’s Shoal and the Lydie Shoal. As in nearby Laconia shoals, where currently a large chunk of Malaysia’s hydrocarbon resources comes from, the entire area has been explored for gas and oil.

The activities of the Malaysian authorities, which are extensive, peaceful, continuous and public in nature, include the construction and maintenance of a light-buoy on nearby Parsons Shoal on a 24/7 basis; daily patrolling and policing of the area by the Royal Malaysian Navy and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency; and undertaking economic activities like exploration for and production of hydrocarbon resources on a sustained basis.

Under international law, such display of peaceful and continuous activities over a long period is tantamount to establishing a titre de souverain (acts of the sovereign). This legal principle is critical in determining ownership of disputed islands, rocks and low tide elevations and by inference, submerged features on continental shelf.

Map 3-James Shoal Enlarged Map showing the location of James Shoal (Beting Serupai), Lydie Shoal (Beting Tugau) and Parson’s Shoal (Beting Mukah) (drawn by Vivian Forbes, 2014).

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) and International Arbitration have applied this principle on numerous occasions. Two recent ICJ Cases on territorial disputes, decided on this principle, involved Malaysia with Indonesia (Case concerning sovereignty over Pulau Ligitan and Pulau Sipadan) and Indonesia (2002) and Malaysia with Singapore (Case concerning sovereignty over Pedra Branca and Pulau Batu Putih (2008).

In sum, the activities of the Malaysian authorities (effectivité to some) are by themselves sufficient to demonstrate that Malaysia is the bona fide owner of James Shoal.

BA Hamzah is a lecturer at the Department of Strategic Studies, National Defence University, Malaysia. He contributed this specially to RSIS Commentaries.

Hub and Spokes: How US Allies in Asia Can Contribute to the US Rebalance


Asia Pacific Bulletin
Number 265 | June 3, 2014
ANALYSIS

Hub and Spokes: How US Allies in Asia Can Contribute to the US Rebalance

By Hayley Channer

The US rebalance to Asia and the promise of renewed American attention and resources has prompted some US allies and partners in the region to expect more of their superpower ally. Many countries, including Japan, Australia, and South Korea, welcomed the rebalance, although there has been criticism from some that the rebalance is “all rhetoric and no action.” While the expectations of US allies vis-à-vis the rebalance have been well communicated, exactly what the United States expects of its allies is less clear.

Certainly, the United States faces greater constraints after two long military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, sequestration, and a diversified global security environment that continues to spread US resources more thinly. These constraints have influenced the United States to expect more from its allies in Asia and globally. The question remains though, what precisely does the United States expect of its allies, and in what areas?

In order to answer this question, it is important to recognize what allies are currently doing. Japan, Australia, and South Korea are three of the closest US allies in Asia and are often mentioned together in connection with the US rebalance. Japan has been contributing to the rebalance in a number of ways by attempting to reinterpret its pacifist constitution and expand the role of its self-defense forces in global security operations–especially those mandated by the United Nations–by increasing defense spending and acquisition. No doubt, these measures also work in favor of Japan’s national interests.

Australia has been hosting US Marines in the country’s Northern Territory since April 2012 and has further increased its defense cooperation with the United States on force posture, interoperability, space, cyber, and ballistic missile defense. It has also offered political support and, importantly, spoken out against China’s unilateral declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea in November 2013. South Korea has also supported the rebalance militarily, by accepting another battalion of US troops and heightening military exercises with the United States in face of highly unpredictable and belligerent actions by North Korea. Thus, US allies in Asia have been contributing to the rebalance in a number of areas and in different concentrations. So, what more does the Unites States expect?

Speaking off-the-record with former US government officials, think tank experts, and academics in Washington DC over the past two months has provided this author with some fascinating insights.

Where Japan is concerned, the overwhelming view is that its greatest potential contribution to the rebalance is economic, specifically, by agreeing to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and undertaking economic structural reforms to revitalize its economy. The TPP–a trade pact under negotiation between twelve countries–is designed to open markets and establish high-standard trade rules for the global economy.

From the perspective of the United States, TPP is the economic component of the rebalance. If successful, a TPP agreement would include member economies that represent approximately 40 percent of the world’s economy and would help shape the rules of international trade for the 21st century. As the world’s third largest economy, Japan’s inclusion would be a major contribution to ensuring TPP success. Other areas where Japan could help the rebalance are by increasing its defense spending above one percent of GDP; improve its relations with South Korea and China; and increase its engagement with Southeast Asia. The latter is something that Japan has already begun to do.

For Australia, its main strength in supporting the rebalance is seen in being a political voice for the region. The vast majority of interviewees thought that Australia could assist the United States by promoting a rules-based order and adherence to international norms and codes of conduct. In particular, Australia was considered to be somewhat passive regarding China’s actions in the South China Sea over territorial disputes.

Australia currently maintains a position of neutrality and, while it supports ASEAN’s call for a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea with China, Australia emphasizes that it has no direct interests in the dispute. The commonly held American view is that Australia should speak out more strongly against coercive action by China and voice its support for the Philippines’ move to seek international arbitration, just as the United States has done.

By having a louder voice in regional affairs, Australia could encourage other countries to follow suit and, collectively, they could influence China. In terms of a military contribution, Australia could support the rebalance by increasing its defense spending, upgrading existing military bases to host additional US forces, and increasing maritime domain surveillance.

In contrast to Japan and Australia, expectations of South Korea’s contribution to the rebalance were not as great or well defined. There is a palatable feeling of uncertainty in Washington about the extent to which Seoul is willing and able to contribute to the US rebalance. This derives from the belief that South Korea sees the rebalance as directed at China and is cautious not to be seen siding with Washington against Beijing. Seoul is careful not to upset relations with Beijing as China is crucial to the outcome of the reunification of the peninsula. Despite South Korea’s unique concerns, Washington analysts still identified areas where Seoul could be doing more to militarily support the rebalance.

In particular, South Korea could implement measures that would allow it to regain wartime operational control (OPCON) of its forces in a war time environment. The United States would like to see OPCON transfer realized in order for South Korea to take greater responsibility for its own security. South Korea could also develop a more sophisticated ballistic missile defense system–integrating ground and sea-based platforms–as well as enhance its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities, and keep its military reserve forces in service until the age of fifty. In terms of political and diplomatic contributions, South Korea could make a concerted effort to improve relations with Japan.

Overall, all US allies in Asia could assist the rebalance by deepening their links with each other, increasing their interoperability, and by investing more in multilateral forums. In addition, many in Washington would like US allies to be proactive on regional issues and, rather than always look to the United States to take the lead, be more forward leaning.

From the above, it is clear that the United States expects more from its allies in Asia. Financial, political and–in some cases–social and cultural constraints will prevent allies from fulfilling US wishes in all areas. However, Japan, South Korea, and Australia are all making greater efforts to support the US rebalance and, if they can better communicate their intentions to the region and to their own domestic populations, this will go some way towards ensuring the longevity of the rebalance and the continuation of this policy beyond the current administration.

About the Author
Hayley Channer is an Analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) and currently a Visiting Scholar at the East-West Center in Washington. She can be contacted via email at channerh@EastWestCenter.org.

___________

The East-West Center promotes better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue.

Established by the US Congress in 1960, the Center serves as a resource for information and analysis on critical issues of common concern, bringing people together to exchange views, build expertise, and develop policy options.

The Asia Pacific Bulletin (APB) series is produced by the East-West Center in Washington.

APB Series Editor: Dr. Satu Limaye, Director, East-West Center in Washington. DC
APB Series Coordinator: Damien Tomkins, Project Assistant, East-West Center in Washington. DC

The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the East-West Center or any organization with which the author is affiliated.

East-West Center | 1601 East-West Road | Honolulu, HI | 808.944.7111

East-West Center in Washington | 1819 L Street, NW, Suite 600 | Washington, DC | 202.293.3995

Asia’s tomorrow has come–PM Najib Tun Razak


May 24, 2014

Asia’s tomorrow has come

by Dato Seri Najib Tun Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia

http://www.nst.com.my (05-23-14)

RISING ASIA’: This is the full text of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s keynote address at the Nikkei’s 20th International Conference on The Future of Asia in Tokyo yesterday (May 22, 2014)

PM NajibPrime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak delivering a speech at the Nikkei’s 20th International Conference on the Future of Asia in Tokyo yesterday. Najib says theLook East policy will move into a second phase, focusing on high technology and highly skilled workers. AFP pic

I am honoured to join you today. This is the second time I have spoken at the Future of Asia conference, and it is wonderful to be back in Japan. Under Prime Minister Abe’s leadership, the Japanese economy has burst back into life, with strong early promise. Now, Japan looks set to usher in a new period of sustained growth,  and set a new standard for reform.

Abenomics–Resurgance of Japan

Japan’s reputation for economic leadership is well-known and well-deserved. In the early 1980s, under Prime Minister Mahathir’s leadership, Malaysia began a ‘Look East’ policy, turning to Japan and Korea for inspiration, helping to train the next generation of Malaysian students and businesses leaders in the East Asian way.

Not only has the Look East policy continued under my tenure, but in line with our transformation programme for Malaysia, it’s moved into a second phase, focusing on high technology and highly skilled workers — helping us move our economy up the value chain, and onto high-income status.

Back in the 1980s, things were different. Asia was rising, but the truly explosive growth was still to come. The emergence of the ‘Tiger’ economies, and the reforms in China, showed the world that something was stirring in Asia. It was the 1980s that the phrase ‘Asian Century’ was coined. But for many observers, Asia was still tomorrow’s story.

Tomorrow has come to Asia (and Malaysia)

Tomorrow has come. Economically and politically, Asia is now at the heart of world affairs. The most populous region on earth is also one of the most dynamic, and increasingly, one of the more contested.

Remarkable economic development has focused global attention on Asia’s prospects. When the recent financial crisis shook confidence in established markets, more companies, and countries, began to ‘look East’.This growing sense of economic momentum has also raised the geopolitical stakes, as emerging and established powers vie for influence in Asia.

This trend shows no sign of abating. Within 20 years, Asia is set to account for more than 40 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP), and 60 per cent of the world’s middle class. This phase of growth will be accompanied by growing global stature, influence, and interest. We must come to terms with life in the spotlight.

Asia’s economy will remain in focus; our internal dynamics under the microscope. There will be, InsyaAllah, no return to Asia’s age of isolation. We are one of the new centres of gravity in a newly multipolar world.

For the Asians of tomorrow, what matters is how we respond to this scrutiny; whether we build strong and sustainable economies, or simply inflate more bubbles. Whether we show security leadership, or allow internal tensions to derail the peace upon which prosperity depends.

That is what I would like to talk about today — the challenges to Asia’s economy and security, and how we can respond. Let me start with the economy. There are a number of trends that will determine Asia’s continued success. The first is economic integration: the removal of trade barriers, and cooperation on monetary and fiscal policies.

According to McKinsey, in 2012, cross-border trade accounted for a third of global GDP. By 2025, that figure could reach half. In the past 20 years, emerging economies have more than doubled their share of cross-border goods, services and finance, but are still lagging far behind developed markets.

For Asian economies, integration offers significant benefits, including the ability to negotiate together. It can increase the power of middle nations, and raise living standards for all. It can help developing nations climb the ladder, and ensure fewer citizens are left behind, as common standards and entry requirements filter back into domestic policy.

I believe Asian states must look to build stronger, more lasting economic connections — both within our region, and with the outside world. That is why I strongly support the push to create a single market in Southeast Asia. The ASEAN Economic Community will support jobs and growth for more than half a billion people, and help ensure Southeast Asia’s growth spills across into all member states.

Trans-Pacific Partnership and Integration for Economic Growth

In an interdependent global economy, the benefits of greater cooperation extend far beyond Asia’s borders. Malaysia looks forward to the completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership on terms acceptable to us. The TPP will strengthen our ties with the wider world; as will the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which will bring three of the largest economies into the world’s largest trading bloc.

For governments and businesses, trade agreements such as these often have a visible logic. We see the negotiations unfold, often over years. We see the compromises that are made, and the benefits that are secured.

The risk of public disaffection can grow. In an age of increasing integration, we must ensure we take people with us — explaining the process and describing the benefits more clearly. Education and engagement can help address public concerns, and win support for agreements that can unlock growth and create higher paying jobs.

To prevent the build-up of risk, we must also ensure reforms to our financial and regulatory regimes keep pace with innovation in the financial sector. In the next decade, Asia’s financial sector is projected to grow by 50 per cent, accounting for almost a third of global banking sector assets. Yet, as the International Monetary Fund points out, Asia’s financial integration is not keeping pace.

As Asian firms ‘build out’ beyond their borders, and Asian investors seek new opportunities, they will be bound more closely into the global economy. There will be new regulatory challenges, such as the growth of shadow banking, and new problems of scale. As Asian capital stretches into other emerging markets, financial supervisors must be ready to address a much wider range of cross-border risks.

Focus on the reforms needed at home

We must also focus on the reforms needed at home. As the Hong Kong Monetary Authority has pointed out, despite a considerable pool of savings, and strong inflows of capital, some Asian infrastructure projects struggle to attract investment due to political, legal and governance risks. Stronger credit, risk management and corporate governance norms can make it easier to secure foreign capital. These must be complemented by a commitment to institutional reform to boost business and public confidence.

These reforms must be undertaken with an eye on the big picture: Asia’s changing role in the world economy. For many years, emerging Asia’s development model was based on a trade surplus with rich-world markets. But rebalancing is under way, as our nations grow richer and our labour costs rise. Some Asian economies are focused on building domestic demand — laying the foundations for more independently sustainable growth.

Alongside macroprudential policies, this approach will help cushion us from the near-term problems, such as the ongoing effects of sluggish growth in established markets, the withdrawal of United States stimulus, whilst also preparing our economies for the next phase of development. They will pave the way for Asia to play a greater role in shaping the global financial architecture, for the ultimate benefit of our citizens. Such structural changes take time and commitment. They can be socially disruptive. But the reward is a stronger and more secure economic future.

The Challenge of Inequality

The second trend we must come to terms with is inequality.Over the past few years, the growing gap between rich and poor in developed economies has become a pressing policy issue. This is not just the battle cry of the Occupy Wall Street protesters: many research institutions have pointed to the corrosive effect of structural inequality.

A little inequality encourages individuals to work hard and innovate; but an unequal system creates hollow economies, where wealth and opportunity are kept for the few, at the expense of the many. Excessive inequality has serious, and avoidable, effects on health, education and life outcomes. When soaring GDP outstrips living standards, people feel they do not have a stake in their nation’s economic success. That, in turn, undermines social progress and threatens stability.

With rapid growth at a time of globalisation and technological change, emerging Asia is particularly exposed to widening inequality. Over the past two decades, eight out of 10 Asians found themselves living in areas where income inequality is rising, not falling. Whilst inequality has narrowed in emerging regions such as Latin America, it has widened in Asia. As the Asian Development Bank has pointed out, had inequality stayed static, an extra 240 million people would have been lifted out of poverty.

Behind the headline growth figures, it is clear that Asia’s future success depends on broader and more diverse economic development. For Asia to truly prosper, we must give our citizens greater equity, as well as greater equality. Again, this will not be easy. Even the most successful economies have struggled to tackle inequality. There is no straightforward solution. But there are a number of things we can do.

We must invest more in public goods such as education and health: increasing access to quality education and narrowing the divide between urban and rural health outcomes. It means strengthening social safety nets and deploying targeted subsidies that support the poor at the point of need. It means encouraging the private sector to do its part, with corporations providing labour with flexibility, training and support. And, it means building more balanced economies, with higher quality jobs and more even growth spread across sectors.

Fight Against Corruption

It also requires a lasting commitment to the fight against corruption. Corruption suppresses meritocratic opportunity, undermines social cohesion and eats away at people’s confidence in the state. Tackling corruption is not the work of a year, or even a decade; but it can and must be done. Government procurement should be reformed to introduce open bidding, bringing transparency to a process often blighted by graft. Strengthening independent anti-corruption institutions, and increasing prosecutions for both bribe takers and bribe givers, can help change attitudes — even when corruption is deeply rooted.

Responding to these two trends — integration and inequality — will be critical. The changes I have spoken about will not always be easy; they require the investment not just of resources, but of political will. Difficult conversations will be had; in my country, for example, where income inequality remains a concern, we are working to find the right balance between affirmative action and individual opportunity.

With courage and foresight, however, we can deliver a stronger economic future for Asia. But, this future will not be assured unless we deliver the security and stability on which economic success depends.

To do so, we must manage our own rising influence, whilst responding to more intense outside interest in Asian security matters. We must make headway on non-state threats such as terrorism and piracy, and act on the ‘new security’ issues such as climate change. And, we must prepare to play a new leadership role in global security issues.

Rise in Asian military power must deliver peace

First and foremost, we must ensure the rise in Asian military power delivers peace, not instability.Over the past decades, Asia’s strong economic growth has obscured a military build-up that is almost as strong. In 1988, Asian defence spending constituted eight per cent of global military expenditure. By 2012, that figure had risen to 20 percent. In the last 25 years, overall military expenditure has grown by 187 per cent.

Countries have every right to defend themselves. But regular arms replacement programmes aside, this trend indicates deeper concerns about security and conflict — concerns that could swiftly become self-fulfilling. To address this risk, we should reject the siren song of competitive armament, and seek wherever possible to strengthen the multilateral and diplomatic ties that check instability.

We should also redouble our commitment to negotiation. Confronted with complex disagreements between states, Asia must place its trust in diplomatic solutions. We should heed the fundamental principles on which good diplomacy is conducted: sovereign equality, respect for territorial integrity, peaceful settlement of disputes and mutual benefit in relations.

And, we must affirm our commitment to rule-based solutions to competing claims. International law, and not economic or military coercion, should guide the resolution of disputes over resources. I also believe Asia can explore ways to make a bigger contribution to global security challenges.On non-proliferation, for example, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has adopted a comprehensive treaty, the Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone.

We should also make a concerted effort to implement and enforce strategic trade controls to cut the risk of dual-use goods.Our regional agreement on piracy is cited as a strong example of regional cooperation by the International Maritime Organisation, which seeks to replicate it elsewhere. The same principles — of sharing information and building capacity – could be applied to anti-terrorism initiatives, which, despite some successes, have sometimes lacked the coordination needed to be truly regional.

Peacekeeping and Conflict Resolution

On peacekeeping and conflict resolution, Asian nations are already ramping up their involvement in the promotion of global peace. Malaysia, which has already played an active role resolving regional conflicts, is bidding for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council for 2015-2016. Japan has made peace-building one of its main diplomatic priorities, South Korea has markedly increased its peacekeeping and post-conflict work, and many ASEAN nations, such as Vietnam, which will join UN operations next year, are looking to play a more active role.

This is driven partly by pragmatism: we have seen from the rise of nations that growth in influence and hunger for resources can bring new tensions, and exacerbate old ones. But it is also about acknowledging that with rising influence comes rising responsibility; that for Asia to continue to prosper in a stable global security environment, we must play our part not just in the enforcement of international norms, but in their creation, too.

By laying the foundations for greater Asian engagement in the international security agenda, and preparing our economies for more integrated and sustainable growth, we are recognising that our position in the world is changing.

As we leave behind the era of single hyperpower dominance, as the global economy becomes more connected and as nations converge around democratic market liberalism, a broader policy approach is needed. Today, more than ever, consensus, cooperation and constructive engagement are the basis for success.

Thirty years after it was proposed, the Asian century is upon us. By reforming at home, and assuming a greater international role, we can ensure it brings stability, prosperity and growth.

Defending our airspace is not a video game


By Mariam Mokhtar, FMT

May23, 2014

PlayStation-crazy Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein thinks that RMAF jets sent to investigate an unidentified aircraft must fire missiles and shoot it down. He must realise that the defence of Malaysian airspace is not like playing ‘Grand Theft Auto’.

It has been 10 weeks since MH370 disappeared without a trace en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur and in the absence of anything substantive, speculations and intrigue are taking hold in the public space.

It has been 10 weeks since MH370 disappeared without a trace en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur and in the absence of anything substantive, speculations and intrigue are taking hold in the public space.

It is bad enough having to suffer an inept Cabinet. We do not need trigger-happy ministers to start a war because of their stupidity.Hishammuddin’s performance, in the interview with ABC’s Four Corners programme, was embarrassing. He wasn’t just evasive, he was reckless and negligent.

He misunderstands his role as Defence Minister. On the night Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared, he justified the failure of the RMAF to scramble a fighter jet to investigate because the blip on the radar was “…not deemed a hostile object.” He said, “If you’re not going to shoot it down, what’s the point of sending it (a fighter) up?” The Defence Minister does not need Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim or other people to tarnish the reputation of Malaysia. Hishammuddin is doing a splendid job by himself.

Malaysia's defence minister defended his military's failure to scramble a fighter jet to follow a Malaysian airliner when it veered off course and vanished two months ago, saying it wasn't seen as a hostile object.

Malaysia’s defence minister defended his military’s failure to scramble a fighter jet to follow a Malaysian airliner when it veered off course and vanished two months ago, saying it wasn’t seen as a hostile object.

As Defence Minister he should have known that to shoot a plane down, one does not need to send a fighter jet to apprehend it. One can target it with a surface-to-air missile. Hishammuddin’s justification for not sending fighter jets to investigate a possible incursion into Malaysian airspace is no different from his reaction to last year’s invasion of Sabah.

When Hishammuddin was told about the incursion of the Suluk militants in Lahad Datu in Sabah, he was very laid-back and told the public not to be alarmed because the Suluks were probably a bunch of old men enjoying a picnic. We subsequently found out that he was wrong!

Hishamuddin's reaction defies logic and common sense.

Hishamuddin’s reaction defies logic and common sense.

As Defence Minister, he has much to learn, and a schoolboy probably knows more than him. During peacetime a lot of the work of the military and armed forces is routine, like guarding key premises, weapons depots, telecommunications facilities or border posts.

Perhaps the most excitement the military gets is when they have to investigate reports of an incursion or to check-out sightings of people, straying close to important installations. Investigating any unknown activity does not necessarily mean the military has to engage in hostilities.

When a navy vessel encounters a boat full of asylum seekers they do not blow it out of the water.

The two aeroplanes which crashed into the twin towers on the Sept 11 terrorist attack were commercial aircraft and were not deemed hostile. What if MH370 had been commandeered by terrorists and turned into a missile?

A whole nation betrayed

After the Sept 11 attack on the twin towers, countries throughout the world put their air forces on red alert, ready to escort any plane which strayed from its flight path. They would only be shot if they were considered a threat.

Hishammuddin has often repeated that the RMAF knew the blip on the radar was not hostile. He has refused to explain how the RMAF knew this.

Although there was no radio contact with MH370, the RMAF fighter jets could have done a visual confirmation by the paintwork and the markings on the body of the plane. They could have trailed MH370 and known in which general direction it was heading.

The Search and Rescue (SAR) mission could have been better coordinated instead of sending search teams on a wild goose chase, wasting time and resources. The MH370 investigations highlighted a lack of communication between the Malaysian military aviation and the civil aviation authorities. How is Hishammuddin resolving this?

We spend hundreds of millions of ringgit on aeroplanes, submarines, patrol boats, defence equipment and radar but the leaders of the armed forces seem to be irresponsible or incompetent, or both. In most air forces, strategic airfields have two pilots ready to take-off at a moment’s notice and intercept unidentified aircraft.

The military did not intercept flight MH370 because Malaysia was not in war mode, says Acting Minister of Transport Hishammuddin Hussein.

The military did not intercept flight MH370 because Malaysia was not in war mode, says Acting Minister of Transport Hishammuddin Hussein.

Planes which have not filed a flight plan and which stray into prohibited airspace are intercepted and escorted out of the airspace. Sometimes rival countries may want to test the air defences of a country and check the capabilities of that country’s air force.

Hishammuddin has betrayed a whole nation. Perhaps, his most cruel act and his worst indiscretion was to insult the families of the passengers and crew of MH370. He has failed them. He gave conflicting and inconsistent reports on the military radar detection. There were allegations that the radio transcripts between the control tower and cockpit were doctored.

Why is there so much intrigue over the cargo manifest? Because of incompetence, he and Najib Tun Razak directed SAR to the wrong areas. Why are we at the mercy of ministers who are both reckless and dopey? Hishammuddin is not fit to be the Defence Minister, let alone a future PM. Trying to appease the rakyat by flying in economy will not do.

Hishammuddin defends the people who did not do their jobs. So, why is he rewarding failure? We owe it to the families of the passengers and crew of MH370 and that is why Hishammuddin must resign, along with the head of the RMAF and the chief of the armed forces.

They are only good at showing off their medals at the National Day parade. The rest of the time they act irresponsibly and treat the defense of the nation as a matter of inconsequence.

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist

Hishammuddin defends military over failure to act on MH370


May 20, 2014

Note: What else do you expect him to say. He has to defend theHishamuddin Hussein military (in the case of MH370 it is the RMAF) since he is the Minister of Defence. That is not good enough. He must take full responsibility for this serious military foul up, that showed that in stead of being alert and responsive to any encroachment of our air space, the men in uniform were practically sleeping on the job. Hishamuddin should have directed the military top brass to conduct a full investigation on the matter and then take action.

I guess that is asking too much a Minister who is known to be inept and incompetent. He should take responsibility and resign. In stead he has been touted as the next Prime Minister of Malaysia. How low can we go than this. This video (below) makes makes  me sick. There is no remorse from the Malaysian authorities. The Prime Minister should also  explain why there is no White Paper to Parliament on the MH370 saga.–Din Merican

Hishammuddin defends military over failure to act on MH370

http://www.themalaysianinsider.com (May 19, 2014)

Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein has defended the military’s failure to scramble a fighter jet after Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared from civilian radar on March 8, saying “it was not deemed a hostile object and pointless if you are not going to shoot it down”.

The Australian Broadcasting Corp reported today that the defence and acting transport minister, who was interviewed on the ABC’s “Four Corners” programme tonight, had said “the plane was deemed commercial and not hostile”.

Flight 370 disappeared from civilian radar when its transponder stopped transmitting during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing around 1.21am.

The military radar tracked it after it turned in a westerly direction across the peninsula. “If you’re not going to shoot it down, what’s the point of sending it (a fighter) up?” Hishammuddin was quoted as asking on the show.

Delays in pinpointing the Boeing 777-200ER’s location led to days of searching in the South China Sea before analysis from British satellite firm, Inmarsat, pointed its likely course as the Indian Ocean.

Hishammuddin had defended the military and was quoted as saying that had the jet been shot down with 239 passengers and crew on board, “I’d be in a worse position, probably”. He said he was informed of the military radar detection two hours later and relayed it to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who then ordered a search in the Strait of Malacca.

The other guest on tonight’s “Four Corners” was Asuad Khan, the brother-in-law of missing pilot Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah. Asuad told the Australian news network that the 53-year-old had been the subject of rumours and inaccurate reporting since the day the jetliner disappeared on March 8.

“From what I can see, a lot of people are saying a lot of things about him which are untrue,” he was quoted as saying, speaking on behalf of Zaharie’s wife, Faizah Khan.

ABC News also quoted Asuad as saying the allegations levelled against Zaharie regarding his personal life and professional activities were untrue. Asuad also denied that the captain could have been a rogue pilot on a suicide mission and said the authorities might be using Zaharie as a scapegoat.

Some 26 countries were initially involved in the search for the missing jetliner.The search has is now focused underwater.

In a statement issued by Australia’s Joint Agency Coordination Centre today, Chinese, Australian and Malaysian authorities agreed that the Chinese ship Zhu Kezhen will conduct a bathymetric survey of the Indian Ocean floor as directed by Australian air crash investigators.

The ship will sail for the survey area on Wednesday, weather permitting. After an initial air and seabed search failed to find any trace of the plane, authorities this month announced a new phase of the search would be conducted over a vastly expanded area of seabed measuring 60,000 sq km.

The new phase also involves mapping the seabed, where depths and topography are often unknown.

China rebuffing ASEAN’s Quest for a binding code of conduct (COC) on the South China Sea


May 17, 2013

China rebuffing ASEAN’s Quest for a binding code of conduct (COC) on the South China Sea

by Dr. BA Hamzah @www.nst.com.my

THE ASEAN summit in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, has just ended with the usual pomp and circumstance. Some heads of government were visibly exasperated with fresh feuds in the South China Sea and their failure to bring order to the “Maritime Heartland”.

Scs

At Nay Pyi Taw, all eyes were on China, the Middle Kingdom, for rebuffing ASEAN’s proposal for a binding code of conduct (COC) on the South China Sea. The negotiation for the COC started since the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties was adopted in Phnom Penh in 2002. While a mechanism to manage order at sea remains pressing, from Beijing’s perspective, the COC is a bridge too far, unnecessary and giving it just enough rope.

Besides this, the fissures within ASEAN on the COC have not impressed China. Vietnam and the Philippines are very vocal. The other claimants are more conciliatory. The non-claimant states are happy to go along with the COC to keep ASEAN together.

ASEAN should know that China is determined to dominate the South China Sea as its “own internal lake”, akin to the “Yankee Lake” that the United States established in the Caribbean to keep rivals out in the early 20th century.

In my view, China is no longer eager to embrace the COC. A weaker China was more willing to let ASEAN play the China card. Hence, it lulled ASEAN into thinking that it would play ball with the COC. Today, the card has changed hands.

A more confident China, which believes it has geography and history on its side, now takes things in its stride. Worse, China believes that the COC is a pretext by some claimant parties to engage stronger external parties (read: the US) in a proxy war. As an example, within days of signing an Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with Washington, Manila is involved in a massive US-led war game, involving more than 5,000 troops near Scarborough Shoals that is occupied by China since April 2012.

From Beijing’s perspective, the joint military exercise is threatening and runs counter to the earlier assurance by US President Barack Obama that the EDCA was not to counter or contain China. If China is not the threat, who is?

China believes geopolitics is also on its side. At the global level, its rise comes at a time when its biggest rival, the Frugal Superpower (after Michael Mandelbaum), is limping and retreating home. America’s decline results from strategic overstretch and costly military misadventures.

China is now more emboldened as US soldiers continue to recuperate from operational fatigue. Despite the EDCA and policy to rebalance forces to East Asia, China believes the US is less likely to put more fresh boots on the ground.

The US is too preoccupied with Europe to bother about the Pacific. The situation in Ukraine will keep the US busy with Russia. Besides, Washington cannot afford to antagonise Beijing, as it needs China to moderate Iran’s increasing influence in the Middle East, as well as keeping peace in Africa.

The COC is an agreement between ten states against one. Its asymmetrical nature does not bode well for China. It drags in the non-claimant parties, with whom China has no territorial quarrel. The fissures or cracks between the claimant states and non-claimant states (visible in Phnom Penh in 2012 and evident in Myanmar this year, another non-claimant state), have weakened the ASEAN initiative.

ASEAN must not be too pushy over the COC or it may lose its raison d’etat. When Asean was formed in 1967, its original mission was very clear: to keep peace among the member states. Today, there is a danger that the internal fissures may undermine ASEAN’s mission, strategic relevance and centrality.

Dr. Hamzah,

Do we really need a binding code of conduct on South China Seas, since China is already a signatory to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in SEA?–Din Merican

CHINA: INSTRUMENT OF ACCESSION TO THE TREATY OF AMITY AND COOPERATION IN SOUTHEAST ASIA

WHEREAS the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, which was signed on 24 February 1976 in Bali, Indonesia, was amended by the First and Second Protocols Amending the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, which were signed on 15 December 1987 and 25 July 1998, respectively;

WHEREAS Article 18, Paragraph 3, of the aforesaid Treaty as amended by Article 1 of the aforesaid Second Protocol provides that States outside Southeast Asia may also accede to the Treaty with the consent of all the States in Southeast Asia, namely Brunei Darussalam, the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Republic of Indonesia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, the Union of Myanmar, the Republic of the Philippines, the Republic of Singapore, the Kingdom of Thailand and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam; and

WHEREAS all the States in Southeast Asia have consented to the accession of the People’s Republic of China;

NOW, therefore, the People’s Republic of China, having considered the aforesaid Treaty as amended by the Protocols, hereby accedes to the same and undertakes faithfully to perform and carry out all the stipulations therein contained.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, this Instrument of Accession is signed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China.

DONE at Bali, Indonesia, on the Eighth Day of October in the Year Two Thousand and Three.

41

 

The Bay of Bengal: A New Locus for Strategic Competition in Asia


May 16, 2014

Asia Pacific BulletinNumber 263 | May 15, 2014

ANALYSIS

The Bay of Bengal: A New Locus for Strategic Competition in Asia

By David Brewster

Bay of BengalIt is possible that the Bay of Bengal may soon be joining the South China Sea as a major locus of competition between China and its neighbors. Both are the key transit zones between the Indian and Pacific Oceans and, some would argue, the pivot points for maritime security across the Indo-Pacific littoral. Like the South China Sea, the Bay of Bengal is now coming under the strategic spotlight.

Indeed, this body of water is beset by a host of security problems which may even dwarf those in other regions of Asia. These include separatist insurgencies and religious violence in most of the littoral states; major concerns over the energy trading routes through the Malacca Strait; maritime boundary disputes relating to oil and gas; widespread piracy and smuggling; and many environmental security problems, not least the possible inundation of large parts of the littoral by rising sea levels. To these problems can be added strategic competition among India, China and the United States.

There are however surprisingly few attempts by strategic analysts to take a coherent view of security problems around the Bay of Bengal. Indeed, analysts rarely even see it as a “region,” usually drawing a sharp dividing line through the middle of the bay, between “South Asia” and “Southeast Asia.” Perhaps it is now time to better understand the Bay of Bengal as a coherent strategic region within the broader framework of the Indo-Pacific.

India has long been the biggest naval power in the Bay and last year announced that it should henceforth be seen as a “net security provider” to the region. India’s National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon announced in March the establishment of a new maritime security arrangement among India and the island states of Sri Lanka, Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius. Menon also foreshadowed that the arrangement may be expanded to encompass the Bay of Bengal or that a similar arrangement could be replicated with other littoral states around the Bay. If implemented, such an arrangement would represent a major strategic development for India and for the region.

The main driver for these developments is China. India has long been anxious about a possible Chinese military strategic presence in the Bay of Bengal. Delhi fretted about the purchase of Chinese arms by Sri Lanka during its civil war. The close military links between Myanmar and China have also long worried India, including a supposed Chinese listening post on Myanmar’s Great Coco Island–which if it ever existed, is no longer there. More recently there have been concerns about Bangladesh-China military links, including the purchase of two Ming-class submarines by Bangladesh from China.

India has also long been building its military power in the Bay, including new naval and air facilities in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands that run north-south through the Bay. These would allow India to potentially dominate the western end of the Malacca Strait and much of the surrounding waters. The Indian Navy is also gradually being “rebalanced” towards the Bay through the expansion of its Eastern Fleet on India’s east coast–among other things, India’s new aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines will be based there. India has growing security relationships with all of its Bay of Bengal neighbors and is keen to demonstrate its credentials as a provider of public goods in such areas as maritime policing, counter-terrorism and humanitarian and disaster relief.

For years, India has hosted its premier multilateral naval exercise, Exercise MILAN, out of the Andaman Islands. This year’s event, held in early February, was the largest ever with 16 guest navies represented, including all the Bay of Bengal states and other navies from the Pacific to Africa. The cooperative and multilateral nature of India’s Exercise MILAN stands in stark contrast to a unilateral naval exercise which was conducted in late January by China in the eastern Indian Ocean–between the Indonesian island of Java and Australia’s Christmas Island.

These developing security relationships have been accompanied by an increased focus on building political and economic ties across the Bay. Recently, New Delhi has been giving renewed focus to BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation), the regional grouping of Bay of Bengal states, with an emphasis on developing improved transport connectivity across the Southern Asian littoral. Some see BIMSTEC as representing an important opportunity for India to break out of the “stagnant regionalism” of the Indian subcontinent–where India is frequently constrained by its rivalry with Pakistan.

Raja Mohan, a prominent Indian strategic commentator, argues that India’s sluggishness is allowing China to seize opportunities which are enabling it to develop regional infrastructure in and around the Bay. These include the construction of road links and gas and oil pipelines that essentially extend “vertically” from southern China through Myanmar to the Bay of Bengal. According to Mohan, New Delhi’s dithering means that India risks being marginalized in the region–while India talks, China builds.

Certainly the BIMSTEC grouping has had few concrete achievements to date. This largely reflects the internal political turmoil and violent insurgencies that have kept members such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand internally focused. Plans for the development of “horizontal” road infrastructure connecting major manufacturing areas in eastern India with Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, and even to Vietnam have been under discussion for years. India’s Congress-led government did little to create any sense of urgency in implementing these projects.

This is not, however, just about India and China. Washington is also playing a delicate balancing act in the Bay. It wants to see a reduction in China’s relative economic influence and to encourage countries such as Myanmar, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to avoid becoming too reliant on Chinese weapons or military assistance. The United States also wants to be able to counter or contain any new Chinese maritime presence. These objectives are consistent with India’s, but India is also extremely sensitive towards the military presence of any outsiders in the Bay.

This means that Washington needs to build security relationships and capabilities in the Bay of Bengal in a manner that pays proper regard to India’s perspectives. This includes avoiding or minimizing any overt US military presence that could be perceived as impinging upon India’s core interests in the Bay. An understanding about respective security objectives and responsibilities in the Bay of Bengal needs to be part of a more cooperative overall strategic relationship that Washington should be seeking to develop with the new government in New Delhi.

Dr. David Brewster is a Visiting Fellow with the Strategic and Defense Studies Center at the Australian National University and a Fellow with the Australia India Institute. He is the author of India’s Ocean: The Story of India’s Bid for Regional Leadership and can be contacted via email at dhbrewster@bigpond.com.

_____________________

The East-West Center promotes better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue.

Established by the US Congress in 1960, the Center serves as a resource for information and analysis on critical issues of common concern, bringing people together to exchange views, build expertise, and develop policy options.

The Asia Pacific Bulletin (APB) series is produced by the East-West Center in Washington.

APB Series Editor: Dr. Satu Limaye, Director, East-West Center in Washington.
APB Series Coordinator: Damien Tomkins, Project Assistant, East-West Center in Washington.

The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the East-West Center or any organization with which the author is affiliated.

For comments/responses on APB issues or article submissions, please contact washington@eastwestcenter.org.

East-West Center | 1601 East-West Road | Honolulu, HI | 808.944.7111

East-West Center in Washington | 1819 L Street, NW, Suite 600 | Washington, DC | 202.293.3995

 

One missing jet, one sunken ferry, two responses


May 2-3, 2014

MY COMMENT: William Pesek is generous. I would give Malaysia  ‘F’ imagefor its handling of MH370 tragedy. Nothing illustrates this more than the release of the preliminary report which confirms what most of us in Malaysia knew about MH370 and that is our government has shown the world that it is incompetent, inept and poorly led. Our leaders lacked an appreciation of the severity of the tragedy in terms of national security. And that means we never learned the lessons of Lahad Datu. Arrogance will get us no where. Humility will since it is when the learning process begins. –Din Merican

Thanks, CLF…Be Yourself… this poem…it is still a beautiful world…we are children of the Universe–Din Merican

Crisis Management: Malaysia gets ‘D’ and South Korea earns ‘A-

Malaysia getsD ’, South Korea ‘A-’ in handling of tragedies, says Bloomberg columnist

www. themalaysianinsider.com

Putrajaya was once again slammed by a Bloomberg columnist who compared Malaysia’s handling of the MH370 saga with South Korea’s response to the recent Sewol ferry tragedy.

We accept God's will but at the same time, wants us human beings to be accountable for our actions, lest another tragedy such as this will strike again due to our ignorance.

We accept God’s will but at the same time,  we want as human beings to be accountable for our actions, lest another tragedy such as this will strike again due to our ignorance.

In a scathing attack, columnist William Pesek said he would give top marks to South Korea for their handling of the ferry tragedy but found Malaysia sorely lacking in handling the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

He said the incidents could be described as tests for the two governments, if not of Malaysian and South Korean societies. “The grades so far? I’d give Korea an A-, Malaysia a D,” he said in his Bloomberg column titled “One missing jet, one sunken ferry, two responses”.

Pesek said in the two weeks since the ferry sank, killing about 300 people on board, the South Korean government had reacted with self-questioning, shame and official penitence.

President Park Geun-hye issued a dramatic and heartfelt apology. Her No. 2, Prime Minister Chung Hong Won, resigned outright. Prosecutors hauled in the ship’s entire crew and raided the offices of its owners and shipping regulators. Citizens and the media are demanding speedy convictions and long-term reforms,” he said.

Najib must emulate SKorea's accountibility. It's President apologizes, it's PM resigns over the ferry tragedy.

Najib must emulate S Korea’s accountability. Its President apologizes, its PM resigns over the ferry tragedy.

On the flip side, there was no such reaction on the part of Malaysian authorities 56 days after MH370 vanished, said Pesek. “No officials have quit. Prime Minister (Datuk Seri) Najib Razak seems more defiant than contrite. The docile local news media has focused more on international criticism of Malaysia’s leaders rather than on any missteps by those leaders themselves,” he said.

Pesek said although both countries are democracies, the key difference is the relative openness of their political systems.

“One party has dominated Malaysia since independence, while Korea, for all itsgrowing pains and occasional tumultuousness, has seen several peaceful transfers of power over the past quarter-century. Unused to having to answer critics, Malaysia’s government has responded defensively.

“Korean officials, on the other hand, are reflecting, addressing the anger of citizens, and delving into what went wrong with the shipping industry’s regulatory checks and balances,” he pointed out.

Pesek said South Korea was most likely to emerge from the crisis stronger than ever, unlike Malaysia. He said this could be seen from the way both countries handled the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

Pesek said Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was the Prime Minister then, had blamed the ringgit’s plunge on some shadowy Jewish cabal headed by George Soros instead of internalising what had gone wrong.

“It didn’t admit it had been using capital inflows unproductively and that coddling state champions – including Malaysia Airlines – was killing competitiveness. Never did the ruling United Malays National Organisation consider it might be part of the problem.”

Pesek said South Korea, on the other hand, forced weak companies and banks to fail, accepting tens of thousands of job losses. South Korean authorities, he said, clamped down on reckless investing and lending and addressed moral hazards head-on.

“Koreans felt such shame that millions lined up to donate gold, jewellery, art and other heirlooms to the national treasury.” Pesek said while South Korea’s response wasn’t perfect, the country’s economic performance since then speaks for itself.

“Now as then, Korea’s open and accountable system is forcing its leaders to look beyond an immediate crisis. Ordinary Koreans are calling for a national catharsis that will reshape their society and its attitude toward safety. Park’s government has no choice but to respond.

“Malaysia’s government, on the other hand, appears to be lost in its own propaganda.

Hishamuddin HusseinTo the outside world, acting Transport Minister (Datuk Seri) Hishammuddin Hussein performed dismally as a government spokesman: He was combative, defensive and so opaque that even China complained.

“Yet Hishammuddin is now seen as Prime Minister material for standing up to pesky foreign journalists and their rude questions. The government seems intent on ensuring that nothing changes as a result of this tragedy. As hard as it seems now, South Korea will move past this tragedy, rejuvenated. Malaysia? I’m not so sure.” .

May 3, 2014

To those who must take responsibility for mishandling MH370: Just RESIGN

By Robert Chaen@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Hisham, Najib, and Muhiyuddin

Here are three good reasons why Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya or Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein –or, better still, both—must resign immediately: to save MAS, to save the tourism industry and, most importantly, to save the reputation of Malaysia and Malaysians.

Malaysians, Chinese and other nationals affected by the MH370 crisis want someone to be accountable—a real person.

They don’t want a thousand and one excuses or those public-relations statements coming from the Prime Minister, such as “this is an unprecedented disaster, 26 countries are involved in the search, we are doing our very best” and so on.

Malaysia Airlines is already losing badly. Bookings are significantly down, and it is likely that more celebrities, holiday makers and travel agents will boycott the airline. And there is now serious talk about the company being split up.

Malaysia’s tourism industry will lose billions of ringgit. Business will be down for hotels, taxis, shopping malls and even roadside stalls. Because neither Jauhari nor Hishammuddin is willing to resign, much less apologize, Malaysians everywhere—not just Malaysian singers in China—will lose respectability in the eyes of the world.

Selfish and arrogant

mh370-hishammuddinIt would seem that the only ones not losing are those clinging to their jobs and salaries despite their responsibility for Malaysia’s loss of face. How selfish and how arrogant of Jauhari and Hishammuddin?

Why can’t they follow the example of South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won, who resigned over the recent ferry disaster in order to calm down his countrymen and let them have closure and move on?

Even if just one person had taken responsibility over the MH370 debacle, the tide of resentment against Malaysia might have turned to sympathy.Because the Malaysian government does not have the courage to admit that its agencies and officials have bungled and that it has botched its public relations, the world’s media have rightly lost trust in it.

It is obvious that the government is hoping the public and the media will start to dim their focus on MH370 after nearly two months and move on to other events such as the football World Cup.But one can be sure that the affected relatives will not let it all go away until they find closure. They will continue to hound Putrajaya.

TDM LatestMalaysia’s mainstream media may well play their usual role of spin masters in an attempt to cover up what is rotten in the system, but it will not work this time around because the world media now have the country on their radar. Even Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s attempt to shift the blame to Boeing will not work.

People are not stupid. And that’s the good news. Even readers of Malaysia’s mainstream newspapers are getting wiser and are no longer willing to swallow everything fed to them.

Jauhari or Hishammuddin—or both—please have the decency to resign before you plunge Malaysia into deeper loss. Don’t wait for us taxpayers to rise up and demand your unceremonious sacking. Do the right thing for once. It’s not too late.

Robert Chaen is an international change expert and online pollster.

MH370 Preliminary Report: Not a Good Day to a Malaysian


May 2, 2014

MH370 Preliminary Report: Not a Good Day to a Malaysian

by  Lim Kit Siang

Hisham, Najib, and MuhiyuddinToday is not a good day to be a Malaysian as the world wakes up to critical and adverse media headlines on the Malaysian preliminary report on the missing MH370 Boeing 777-200 completing its eighth week of vanishing into the air with 239 passengers and crew on board without leaving any wreckage or clue as to what had happened on the fateful morning of March 8.

The Four Hour Gap

It took 17 minutes for air traffic controllers to realise that Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 had disappeared from their screens - and four hours to launch a rescue operation.

It took 17 minutes for air traffic controllers to realise that Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 had disappeared from their screens – and four hours to launch a rescue operation.

All over the world, the media splashed the shocking headlines of the admission from the first Malaysian official report that nobody noticed that Flight MH370 was missing for 17 minutes and no search was launched for another four hours.

Instead of answering the many questions that have been raised in the past eight weeks of the MH 370 disaster, both the preliminary report and the statement by the Acting Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein accompanying it have only provoked more questions.

Firstly, the five-page preliminary report on the missing MH 370 had been described as “scant at best” in contrast to the preliminary report into Air France 447 which was released one month after the plane disappeared and which was 128 pages long, while a preliminary report into the Qantas engine explosion over Singapore in 2010 was more than 40 pages with diagrams and charts.

The table below is based on recorded communications on direct lines, summarising the events associated to MH370 after the radar blip disappeared until activation of the Rescue Coordination Centre.

The table above  summarising the events associated to MH370 after the radar blip disappeared on the first day .

The Malaysian government preliminary report makes one safety recommendation, for real-time air tracking to be installed on all commercial aircraft, viz:

“There have now been two occasions during the last five years when large commercial air transport aircraft have gone missing and their last position was not accurately known. This uncertainty resulted in significant difficulty in locating the aircraft in a timely manner.”

The same recommendation was made after the Air France jet crashed into the Atlantic in 2009, though nothing was done to satisfy the proposal.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said Malaysia’s democracy is best in the world.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said Malaysia’s democracy is best in the world.

More pertinent, however, is why the preliminary report which was dated three weeks ago on April 9 was not made public earlier, and why the relatives of the passengers and crew on board the missing plane had not been briefed on its contents before its public release.

For the first time in 56 days, Malaysians are told that the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had on the very same morning of the missing MH370, ordered the search and rescue operations to be extended to the Straits of Malacca, alongside that being carried out in the South China Sea.

Was this true that right from the very beginning of the search-and-rescue operation for the MH 370 on the morning of May 8, the search area had been extended from South China Sea to the Straits of Malacca?

If so, why didn’t Hishammuddin announce it earlier, instead of waiting for 55 days until yesterday in a statement accompanying the publication of the government’s preliminary report on the missing MH370?

It is to be noted that this new and hitherto unknown information to the public that the SAR operation area had right from the beginning on the same morning of the missing Boeing 77 been extended from the South China Sea to the Straits of Malacca was not disclosed in the preliminary report dated April 9 but in Hishammuddin’s statement dated May 1, 2014!

Furthermore, Najib himself did not seem to know that he had ordered the search area to be extended from the South China Sea to the Straits of Malacca the very same morning of the missing aircraft, for he made no mention of such extension in his press conference on May 8 held just after 7 pm where he announced the expansion of the search area after the SAR mission team found no wreckage in the plane’s last location before it disappeared from radar at 1.21 earlier in the morning.

Najib had said then that the first phase of the search efforts focused on the area where the plane’s signal was last picked up, had proved unsuccessful in locating it, and the search area was being “expanded as wide as possible”.

Civil Aviation Department Director-General Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman (pic–on Hishamuddin’s left), mh370-hishammuddinwho was present at Najib’s press conference, spelt out the meaning of this expansion of the search area by saying that “we are searching in Malaysian and Vietnamese waters”.

The next day, on Sunday, 9th March, Azharuddin told the press that the search operation had been expanded further from the initial 20 nautical miles in the South China Sea to 50 nautical miles – no mention whatsoever of its expansion to the Straits of Malacca.

Unless Hishammuddin can give satisfactory explanation for these new additional discrepancies in the latest official accounts of what happened in the first crucial days of the SAR for the missing MH 370, he has only himself to blame if the government preliminary report and his statement accompanying it suffer a serious credibility gap.

This is why a report by an Opposition-headed Parliamentary Select Committee on the MH 370 disaster would have greater credibility than a unilaterial statement by Hishammuddin, especially when new facts suddenly surface as if to embellish the government’s version of what happened in the crucial first few days of the MH 370 disaster.

Fatal omissions

Chief of the RMAF, Rodzali DaudThere are many fatal omissions in the government preliminary report – for instance, the failure to explain the many flip-flops, contradictions and confusions in the information given out by the various authorities, for instance, the initial information that MH 370 had lost contact at 2.40 am when it was subsequently established that the aircraft disappeared from the Malaysian air traffic controllers’ radar at 1.21 am Malaysian time.

But the most fatal error which still cries out for explanation is why it took another four hours before the search-and-rescue (SAR) operation was launched, when time is of the essence in such cases as the sooner a SAR mission is initiated, the greater the possibility of finding the wreckage and casualties.

Under civil aviation emergency standard operating procedures, an Uncertainty Phase (INCERFA) should be invoked within 30 minutes when there is concern about the safety of an aircraft or its occupants.

An Alert Phase (ALERFA) should be invoked when there is apprehension about the safety of an aircraft and its occupants, or when communication from an aircraft has not been received within 60 minutes.

A Distress Phase (DETRESFA) should be invoked when there is reasonable certainty that the aircraft or its occupantsw are threatened by grave and imminent danger – or when following an Alert Phase, further attempts to establish communications with the aircraft are unsuccessful

All these emergency standard operating procedures were violated in the MH 370 case, for ALERFA should have been declared at 1.51 am, ALERTA at 2.21 am and DETRESFA before 3 am to lauch a full-scale SAR operation instead of delaying until 5.30 am that day!

Another grave omission is the role of the Royal Malaysian Air Force and the military radar in the MH 370 disaster.

Lim Kit Siang is the DAP Adviser & MP for Gelang Patah

 

Malaysian Government releases MH370 preliminary report, cargo manifest


May 2, 2014

Malaysian Government releases MH370 preliminary report, cargo manifest

by http://www.malaysiakini.com-May 1, 2014

The Malaysian government has released copy of the preliminary report into the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which it submitted to the International Civil Aviation Organisation early last month.In a statement, acting Transport and Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the decision to release the report, dated April 9, was made after an internal team of experts have concluded its review of the document.Alongside the report, the government also released audio recordings of the communication between the cockpit and air traffic control on March 8 just before the aircraft lost contact, a map of a number of possible flight paths, as well as plane’s seating plan and cargo manifest.They also released additional information detailing the actions taken between 1:38am and 06:14am on March 8.

“Last week, the Prime Minister (Najib Abdul Razak) appointed an internal team of experts to review all the information the government of Malaysia possesses regarding MH370, with a view to releasing as much as possible to the general public.

“The Prime Minister set, as a guiding principle, the rule that as long as the release of a particular piece of information does not hamper the investigation or the search operation, in the interests of openness and transparency, the information should be made public,” Hishammuddin said in the statement.

Recommendation – real-time tracking

The confidential report of Transport Ministry’s Office of the Chief Inspector of Air Accident made one recommendation – for the possible implementation of real-time tracking of commercial flights.

“There have now been two occasions during the last five years when large commercial air transport aircraft have gone missing and their last position was not accurately known.

“This uncertainty resulted in significant difficulty in locating the aircraft in a timely manner,” said the report.

“Therefore, the Malaysian Air Accident Investigation Bureau makes the following safety recommendation to ICAO:

“It is recommended that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) examine the safety benefits of introducing a standard for real time tracking of commercial air transport aircraft.”

The ICAO is expected to deliberate on the matter at a meeting on May 12-13. However, the preliminary report, failed to detail the Malaysian military’s immediate action in the hours proceeding the plane’s disappearance aside a brief mention that search was “extended to the Straits of Malacca”.

The Malaysian government had come under intense scrutiny from foreign media and the families of passengers on board Beijing-bound MH370, most of whom are Chinese nationals, for its failure to release the cargo manifest and preliminary report to the ICAO.

Prior to this, the government had only released the transcript of the final communication with air traffic control. This came after the Department of Civil Aviation corrected its ealier claim that the last words from the cockpit were, “All right, good night” but was instead “Good night, Malaysian three-seven-zero.”

Part 1: Actions taken between 1:38am and 6:14am
Part 2: Actions taken between 1:38am and 6:14am

Seating arrangement of passengers

Audio: Communication between MH370 and KL Air Traffic Control

___________________

More from the Malaysian Insider.com

By Lee Shi-Ian
May 01, 2014
Latest Update: May 01, 2014 11:24 pm

The four-hour reaction time for Malaysian authorities to activate the search and rescue operation was one of two gaps that stood out from the report pertaining to the timeline and actions taken.

The other gap was the 17 minutes from when the plane disappeared from radar, that is 1.21am, and when Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh ATC informed KL-ATC that no contact was made by the crew of MH370. This could indicate that the KL-ATC had not noticed the disappearance of the plane, or took no action on it for those 17 critical minutes.

The report, which was sent to the International Civil Aviation Organization last week, indicated that the Kuala Lumpur Rescue Coordination Centre was activated at 5.30am after all efforts to communicate and locate MH370 failed.

The preliminary report, released by the Transport Ministry this evening, included the cargo manifest, recordings of all communication that took place between the cockpit and air traffic control, maps detailing MH370’s flight path and the likely area it ended its journey in the southern Indian Ocean.

Search and rescue operations were immediately carried out in the South China Sea where flight MH370’s position was last seen on radar by the KL-ATC.

A review of data from the military radar revealed a signal from an aircraft, which could possibly be that of MH370, had made an air turn back crossing peninsular Malaysia.

“The aircraft was categorised as friendly by the radar operator and therefore, no further action was taken.”

At 8.30am on March 8, the radar data was reviewed in a playback and the information was sent to the Royal Malaysian Air Force operations room at 9am.

Hishamuddin Hussein“After further discussion up the chain of command, the military informed me, as the Defence Minister, at 10.30am of MH370’s possible air turn back,” Hishammuddin said.

“I then informed Najib, who immediately ordered that search and rescue operations be initiated in the Strait of Malacca, along with the South China Sea operations which had started earlier.”

Two Malaysian vessels, KD Mahamiru and KD Laksamana Muhamad Amin, were in the Strait of Malacca on patrol duty and reassigned to conduct search and rescue operations.

The last message received by the satellite ground system from the ACARS system on MH370 was at 8.19am.

With the primary analysis of the satellite data and aircraft performance data, the investigation established that flight MH370 flew along either a northern or southern corridor.

The last transmission occurred when the aircraft was on an arc of 40 degrees from the satellite. Based on this new development the search area was moved from the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca to the northern and southern corridors.

The preliminary report indicated that MH370 flew the southern corridor and ended its flight in the southern part of the Indian Ocean, based on Inmarsat satellite data.

Hishammuddin said the preliminary report had been drafted with the cooperation of the United States National Transport Safety Board, the UK Air Accident Investigations Branch and other international aviation agencies.

“Last week, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak appointed an internal team of experts to review all the information Putrajaya possessed on MH370. The review was conducted with a view to releasing as much of information as possible to the public,” Hishammuddin said.

“The principle set by Najib was as long as the release of a particular piece of information did not hamper the probe or search operation, it should be made public.”

Hishammuddin said Putrajaya wanted to be as open and transparent as possible, hence the information was released once the internal team concluded its review. – May 1, 2014

Ending Asia Trip, Obama Defends His Foreign Policy


April 29, 2014

Ending Asia Trip, Obama Defends His Foreign Policy

Aquino and ObamaObama with Aquino in Manila

Standing next to the Philippine President, Benigno S. Aquino III, a visibly frustrated Mr. Obama said on Monday that his critics had failed to learn the lessons of the Iraq war.

On a day in which he announced new sanctions against Russia for its continued threats to Ukraine, Mr. Obama said his foreign policy was based on a workmanlike tending to American priorities that might lack the high drama of a wartime presidency but also avoided ruinous mistakes.

You hit singles, you hit doubles; every once in a while we may be able to hit a home run,” Mr. Obama said at a news conference with Mr. Aquino. “But we steadily advance the interests of the American people and our partnership with folks around the world.”

Mr. Obama’s statement, delivered at the end of a weeklong trip to Asia, was a rare insight into a second-term president already sizing up his legacy as a statesman. By turns angry and rueful, his words suggested the distance he had traveled from the confident young leader who accepted a Nobel Peace Prize with a speech about the occasional necessity of war.

While he flatly rejected the Republican portrait of him as feckless in the face of crises like Syria, Mr. Obama seemed to be wrestling with a more nuanced critique, that aside from one or two swings for the fences — the nuclear negotiations with Iran, for example — his foreign policy had become a game of small ball.

Mr. Obama offered this trip as Exhibit A for the virtues of an incremental approach: He nudged along trade negotiations with Japan, consoled a bereaved ally in South Korea, cultivated ties with a once-hostile Malaysia and signed a modest defense agreement with the Philippines.

He drew a sharp contrast between the international coalition the United States had marshaled to pressure President Vladimir V. Putin and the proposals of some Republicans to funnel weapons to Ukrainian soldiers, which he mocked as ineffective.

“Why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force,” Mr. Obama said, “after we’ve just gone through a decade of war at enormous cost to our troops and to our budget. And what is it exactly that these critics think would have been accomplished?”

The President did not name his critics, except to refer to them as foreign policy commentators “in an office in Washington or New York.” He also referred to the Sunday morning talk shows, where Senator John McCain of Arizona, a fierce Obama critic, is a ubiquitous guest.

“If we took all of the actions that our critics have demanded, we’d lose count of the number of military conflicts that America would be engaged in,” said Benjamin J. Rhodes, a Deputy National Security  Adviser.

These days, one crisis follows on the heels of another. Even Mr. Obama’s Asian trip, which he had put off from October because of the government shutdown, was overshadowed by the tensions with Russia and the suspension of peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Barack ObamaWhen Mr. Obama returns to Washington on Tuesday, his advisers say, he wants to regain the offensive with several speeches, most notably a graduation address at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., next month, in which he will try to place his decisions on Syria, Ukraine and other crises into a broader context.

He has done this before. In December 2009, when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, the president made a case for the responsible use of military force when responding to a terrorist attack, as in Afghanistan, or when looking to prevent the brutalization of a population, as in Libya.

Mr. Obama has not hesitated to use drones to target suspected terrorists in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, showing an appetite for shadow warfare that surprised many of his supporters.

But the President’s profound reluctance to get drawn into Syria’s civil war shows no sign of wavering. For critics ranging from Mr. McCain to human rights activists, it has come to symbolize the erosion of America’s leadership role in the world during the Obama presidency.

White House officials counter that they are forging ahead on other fronts, like the nuclear negotiations with Iran and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a regional trade pact that Mr. Obama promoted in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.

“There is a tendency to view all of American foreign policy through the prism of the most difficult crisis of the day, rather than taking the longer view,” Mr. Rhodes said.

The President’s frustration flared during the first news conference of his trip, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan. He was asked if, by declaring that the United States would protect disputed islands in the East China Sea under its security treaty with Japan, he risked drawing another “red line,” like the one in Syria over chemical weapons.

“The implication of the question I think is, is that each and every time a country violates one of those norms the United States should go to war, or stand prepared to engage militarily, and if it doesn’t then somehow we’re not serious about those norms,” he said. “Well, that’s not the case.”

In the case of Syria, Mr. Obama noted that after he canceled a threatened missile strike, the United States cobbled together a deal with Russia to remove Syria’s chemical munitions. As of last week, he said, 87 percent of President Bashar al-Assad’s stockpile of chemical weapons had been removed.

“The fact that we didn’t have to fire a missile to get that accomplished is not a failure to uphold those international norms, it’s a success,” the President said, adding, “It’s not a complete success until we have the last 13 percent out.”

Mr. Obama challenged those who say the United States must take some kind of military action in Syria. “They themselves say, ‘No, no, no, we don’t mean sending in troops.’ Well, what do you mean?” he asked.

The same dialogue occurs with Russia and Ukraine. Nobody is seriously advocating sending American troops, he said, but some want to arm the Ukrainians.

“Do people actually think that somehow us sending some additional arms into Ukraine could potentially deter the Russian Army?” Mr. Obama said. “Or are we more likely to deter them by applying the sort of international pressure, diplomatic pressure and economic pressure that we’re applying?”

Despite his frustrations, Mr. Obama had some small victories in Asia. The 10-year deal with the Philippines will give American troops, ships and planes expanded access to bases here, something that would have been unthinkable a decade ago, after fierce public opposition forced the United States to relinquish its Subic Bay naval base.

Administration officials said they had made important progress on a trade deal with Japan, even if it was not ready to be announced by Mr. Obama and Mr. Abe. And by all accounts, Mr. Obama managed to reassure America’s treaty allies without antagonizing China.

After offering an earnest discussion of America’s relationships with various Southeast Asian nations, the President said that kind of foreign policy “may not always be sexy” and “it doesn’t make for good argument on Sunday morning shows — but it avoids errors.”

For Mr. Obama, who spent some of his childhood years in Indonesia, Southeast Asia is normally a place to slow down to its tropical rhythms. Not this time: After his impassioned answer to a question on his foreign policy record from Ed Henry, a Fox News White House correspondent, Mr. Obama said, “You got me all worked up.”

ASEAN-US Security Relations Moving to a New Level


 
east-west-center-asia-pacific-bulletin
Number 256 | April 15, 2014
ANALYSIS

ASEAN-US Security Relations: Moving to a New Level

by Mary Fides Quintos and Joycee Teodoro

Chuck Hagel -The United States has just completed hosting a three-day forum with the ten ASEAN Defense Ministers in Hawai’i, fulfilling US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s invitation to his ASEAN counterparts during last year’s Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. The agenda of the US-ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Forum included a roundtable discussion on humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HA/DR), site visits to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and the USS Anchorage–an amphibious transport dock ship designed to respond to crises worldwide–and discussions on various pertinent security issues in the region.

The US-ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Forum marked the beginning of Secretary Hagel’s ten-day trip to Asia which included visits to Japan, China, and Mongolia and is his fourth official visit to the region in less than a year, all part of the ongoing US rebalance policy to Asia. This event was the first meeting that the US hosted, as previous gatherings were conducted on the sidelines of the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) Retreat and ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) Summit.

The US-ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Forum was conducted under the ambit of the ADMM-Plus which was established in 2007 to serve as a venue for ASEAN to engage with eight dialogue partners–Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia, and the United States–in promoting peace and security in the region. To date, ADMM-Plus has established five working groups for practical cooperation covering maritime security, counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster management, peacekeeping operations, and military medicine.

This most recent meeting was held amid another wave of tensions on the Korean Peninsula and in the South China Sea. For ASEAN, a recent water cannon incident near Scarborough Shoal involving Filipino fishing vessels and Chinese Coastguard ships, the standoff at Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal again between the Philippines and China, and China’s naval exercises at James Shoal which is claimed by Malaysia are all issues of concern.

Indonesia’s strengthening of its military presence in the Natuna Islands which China included in its nine-dash line is another indication of the increasing insecurity and instability in the region. The meeting provided a good opportunity for informal dialogue on the overall security environment in Asia and the possible implications of developments in Ukraine for the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity within the international order. It also served as an opportunity for the United States to reemphasize that it can be relied upon by ASEAN members in supporting the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law and in upholding the freedom of navigation and overflight in the region.

With regard to humanitarian assistance and disaster response, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines Hishamuddin Husseinlast year and the ongoing search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has demonstrated the lack of capacity of individual ASEAN countries or ASEAN as a bloc to immediately respond to a crisis. Not disregarding the efforts made by the governments of the Philippines and Malaysia, these incidents highlighted the need for the participation of other states particularly in terms of sharing of expertise, technology, and information. The US-ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Forum explored areas where cooperation in these areas can be further strengthened. It was a reiteration of the need for multilateral cooperation in non-traditional security challenges that do not respect territorial boundaries.

The increased frequency of high-level visits by US officials to Asia, the provision of resources to its allies in the region, the reallocation of military hardware, along with ongoing military activities demonstrate that the US intent is to have a closer engagement with the region over the long term. These actions are also manifestations of the US commitment to Asia despite fiscal restraints and the looming crises in other regions where the US is also expected to be involved.

Moreover, they send a strong signal that the United States remains the region’s security guarantor regardless of doubts on its capacity to perform that role. However, the US-led hub-and-spokes alliance security model can be perceived as an act of containment against a particular country, hence the importance that bilateral alliances are supplemented by a multilateral institution that is open and inclusive such as ASEAN in shaping the regional security architecture.

The conclusion of the first US-initiated US-ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Forum highlights the growing importance of ASEAN to the United States, especially if the event becomes more institutionalized. The message is that the United States views ASEAN as a central and strategic player, not only in the US rebalance to Asia but more importantly in the building of a strong and credible regional security architecture for the Asia-Pacific.

The move by the United States to actively engage ASEAN in its rebalance also shows the maturation of ties between them. By acknowledging ASEAN as an important regional actor, the relationship between the two has clearly been elevated. This also raises a key point with regard to respecting ASEAN’s centrality in the region. Economic power and military size notwithstanding, major powers need to recognize that any credible regional security architecture must include ASEAN.

These deliberate and sustained efforts involving ASEAN in devising the region’s security architecture are clear manifestations that the United States is actively engaging more actors in the region for maintaining peace and stability. More importantly, by involving ASEAN, there is the added assurance that the region’s security environment will work under a framework that is not dominated by a single power.

ASEAN, for its part, should see changes in the regional security environment as both opportunities and challenges. While ASEAN has been successful in engaging the major powers in the region, its centrality must continuously be earned. First, it needs to maintain unity amid differences; it should not be influenced by any external actor that seeks to advance its national interests at the expense of regional interests. ASEAN members must learn how to pursue their respective interests not only through national strategies but also through regional unity.

As a community, ASEAN is expected to act as a bloc championing the group’s interests and not only those of the individual member-states. Second, there should be greater commitment to cooperation not only in HA/DR but also in other non-traditional areas of security. Non-traditional security challenges are often transnational in scope and include multiple stakeholders. ASEAN must continuously enhance regional cooperation and coordination in times of crisis, although individual countries must also develop domestic capacity to respond to security challenges.

ASEAN should start addressing this deficit now otherwise institutional mechanisms will remain only on paper. These challenges will force ASEAN to build and improve on its usual practices and move beyond its comfort zone, in the long run benefitting the bloc as it matures institutionally.

About the Authors: Ms. Mary Fides Quintos and Ms. Joycee Teodoro are both Foreign Affairs Research Specialists with the Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies at the Philippines Foreign Service Institute.

The views expressed here belong to the authors alone and do not reflect the institutional stand of the Philippines Foreign Service Institute. Ms. Quintos can be contacted at fides.quintos@gmail.com and Ms. Teodoro at joyteodoro@gmail.com.

The East-West Center promotes better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue.
Established by the US Congress in 1960, the Center serves as a resource for information and analysis on critical issues of common concern, bringing people together to exchange views, build expertise, and develop policy options
The Asia Pacific Bulletin (APB) series is produced by the East-West Center in Washington.
APB Series Editor: Dr. Satu Limaye, Director, East-West Center in Washington.
APB Series Coordinator: Damien Tomkins, Project Assistant, East-West Center in Washington.
The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the East-West Center or any organization with which the author is affiliated.
For comments/responses on APB issues or article submissions, please contact washington@eastwestcenter.org.

East-West Center | 1601 East-West Road | Honolulu, HI | 808.944.7111

East-West Center in Washington | 1819 L Street, NW, Suite 600 | Washington, DC | 202.29