World View: Australia Joins Japan, Vietnam, Philippines in Opposing China

World View: Australia Joins Japan, Vietnam, Philippines in Opposing China

This morning’s key headlines from

  • A humiliated Russia considers next steps in east Ukraine
  • Australia joins Japan, Vietnam, Philippines in opposing China

A humiliated Russia considers next steps in east Ukraine

The decisive victory of theUkraine government forces over the pro-Russian separatists inSlovyansk last week has left the Russian leaders searching for a newdirection. At one extreme, a group led by Russian ultra-nationalistAlexander Dugin, who first called for the annexation of Crimea, iscalling on Russia’s president Vladimir Putin to intervene militarilyin eastern Ukraine “to save Russia’s moral authority.” Thepro-Russian separatists did not even put up much of a fight inSlovyansk and several other cities, fleeing to other strongholds inDonetsk and Luhansk. The leader of the separatists is insisting thatthere will be no retreat from Donetsk, but Moscow fears that those twocities will fall quickly as well, leading to total humiliation inMoscow. 

Ukraine’s military offensive is continuing, with air strikes targetingseparatists positions near Donetsk, killing and dislodging them.Ukraine’s ground forces are attempting to close the border withRussia, which has been a sieve through which Russia has supplied theseparatists with tanks, armored personnel carriers, anti-aircraftguns, and other weapons. Ukraine’s government is resistingcalls for a cease-fire and says that the “all-out” assaulton pro-Russian separatists may last another month 

According to one analysis, the Russian air force could be preparingfor a covert action over Donbas to support the rebels as a last stepshort of direct intervention. In a similar conflict in 1992-1993 inAbkhazia, Russian air force jets and helicopter gunships attackedGeorgian government positions, posing as unidentified rebel aircraft,while Moscow stringently denied any involvement — as today it deniessending arms and men into Donbas. If there is no ceasefire soon, theRussian air force may go into covert action over Donbas as early asnext week. Jamestown and BBC and AFP and Jamestown

Australia joins Japan, Vietnam, Philippines in opposing China

Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines have been forming an allianceagainst China, as China has been moving to annex other countries’territories in the South and East China Seas. Relations betweenVietnam and China have become particularly hostile since Chinadeployed an oil rig in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). (See “China’s neighbors react to new South China Sea claims” from last week.) 

Now Australia is signaling that it is also joining this alliance.The change in policy was indicated in a statement by Australia’sforeign minister, Julie Bishop, during a visit by Japan’s primeminister Shinzo Abe to Australia to meet Australia’s prime minister, Tony Abbott. Like many of China’s neighbors, Australia had had apolicy of being careful not to anger China, for fear of retaliation. 

But there was a major confrontation last November, after Chinaannounced an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), demanding thatany foreign aircraft flying into the East China Sea would have toinform China’s military beforehand. (“24-Nov-13 World View — In new escalation, China demands to control air space over Japan’s Senkaku islands”.) 

Julie Bishop was visiting Beijing at that time and complained aboutthe unilateral declaration of the ADIZ. According to reports, China’sforeign minister told her that the ADIZ was none of her business, andhe “famously tore strips off her,” with cameras rolling. (“Tearstrips off somebody” is apparently an Australian expression meaning toseverely scold someone.) 

So now, Bishop is explaining that she’s learned some lessons fromthat experience. In particular, Australia’s previous policiesof reticence toward China have only caused confusion, andthat it’s better to be frank than misunderstood: 

China doesn’t respect weakness.

The freedom of the skies and freedom of the seas in that part ofthe world is important to us because that’s where the majority ofour trade is done.

So I believed that, at that time, we had to make it clear wherewe stood on unilateral action that could be seen as coercive andcould be seen to – and which did – affect our nationalinterests. …

So, when something affects our national interest then we shouldmake it very clear about where we stand.

Bishop said she had no doubt that America would remain the pre-eminentforce internationally: 

This is a debate that the US will have to have aboutits role in the world. It is currently the only super power withthe military capability to act globally and the US must determinewhether it’s going to continue in that role. I believe that itmust, and it will.

Sydney Morning Herald

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Ukraine, Russia, Vladimir Putin,Donetsk, Luhansk,Australia, Japan, Vietnam, Philippines,Shinzo Abe, Tony Abbott, Julie Bishop 

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