Will Fiji Overplay Its China Card?
For more than two decades, Fiji has endured one coup after another. During the latest one, Commodore Frank Bainimarama overthrew Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase’s duly elected but troubled government. Since then, Australia has tried to coerce Fiji back to democracy. The regime’s failure to return to the polls, has led to Fiji’s suspension from the Pacific Islands Forum and the Commonwealth. But, these actions have not led to a completely united approach, even in the West. To date, Bainimarama’s tactics have provoked differing levels of outrage among the regional players, particularly Australia, China, and the United States. Their varying approaches will not only shape their ongoing interactions with the Bainimarama regime but also could affect long-term strategic interests in the South Pacific.
(Source: The Huffington Post)
An Uncertain Future for Fiji?
In a recent conversation with Ambassador Winston Thompson of the Republic of Fiji, the ambassador was asked how he addresses skeptics who believe that Commodore Frank Bainimarama’s lifting of martial law was disingenuous. His opening remark, “We can only wait and see.” While out of context, this response quite rightly captures the larger state of affairs in Fiji. Led by a military leader who views himself as a savior but who is condemned by Australia as a despot, Fiji remains a country with an uncertain future. The only thing that appears clear is that the path Fiji chooses resides in Bainimarama’s hands not Julia Gillard’s. Barring some major policy shift by other regional powers, democracy will not return to Fiji without his acquiescence.
(Source: The Huffington Post)
Spicy Ramen along Nagano Shinkansen
Taking the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagano can be a bit of a drag. Sure, it’s a thrill to take the bullet train for the first time. But, after a few round trips, the allure wears off. So, if you are looking to spice up your next trip, I recommend taking a break in Takasaki.
OpEd: Obama’s Nuclear-Redux Fantasy
Earlier this month, James N. Miller, principal undersecretary of defense for policy, acknowledged to the House Committee on Armed Services that China is increasing the size of its nuclear arsenal, North Korea continues to pursue the development of enriched-uranium weapons, and Iran is advancing its own nuclear ambitions. Mr. Miller also admitted that despite the administration’s decision to unilaterally declare the number of nuclear weapons in the American stockpile, neither China nor Russia has met the calls to increase transparency in their programs.
Carlo Kopp: F-35 Extended Coverage
For the past few weeks, I have been providing coverage of the lingering Australian F-35 debate via publications in The Diplomat, East Asia Forum, The Asia-Pacific Reporting Blog, Pnyx, and Foreword Report. In preparing this series of articles, I had the opportunity to interview Carlo Kopp, Research fellow at Monash Univerity and Co-Founder of Air Power Australia. Unfortunately, not all of that interview has yet to be used in my reporting. With seven articles in the series now live, I therefore wanted to put his views out there while still timely and relevant. They also provide a different perspective to complement recent feature-length interviews with Alan Stephens and Andrew Davies. Ultimately, Kopp’s comments will be re-captured in two new articles scheduled to post later this month.
Still Life Left in Air Force B-52 Fleet
Addressing the press at the Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition I attended last week, US Air Force Lt. Gen. James Kowalski, Commander of the Air Force Global Strike Command, argued that there’s a lot of life left in the country’s fleet of B-52 bombers – the backbone of the United States’ long-range strike force.
Australia’s High Octane F-35 Debate
Concerns about the changing balance of power in the Asia-Pacific are fuelling a debate in Australia about the potential acquisition of 100 F-35s. The decision is important in a country where maintaining regional air superiority remains critical to its national security thinking.
OpEd: India’s Libya Takeaways
India’s current military strategy is the product of various factors, not the least of which are its assessments of US military intervention decision-making. It therefore is critical that regional experts better understand the complex inter-relationship between India’s strategic thinking and US military operations in places such as Iraq, Libya and Yemen.
Asia Pivot Needed for American Education
Late last month, I filed astory announcing the launch of thePacific Partners Initiative (PPI) by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Lowy Institute for International Policy.
As part of that piece, I spoke with Ernie Bower, Director of the CSIS Southeast Asia Programme and head of PPI. Due to space and topic limitations, certain portions of our conversation weren’t included in that article, but I thought they were worth mentioning now.