ASEAN should confront China now…

…before China grows stronger. That is the thrust of this analysis by Yeremia Lalisang in the Jakarta Post who takes a less confident view of the outcome of the ASEAN summit in Brunei. Lalisang says the summit didnt conclude with any strong statement on the issue, which will only encourage China to be more assertive in its claim over the South China Sea. Lalisang, countrary to ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh’s comments, describes the outcome of the latest summit as procrastination on the part of ASEAN.

With both internal and external limitations facing policymakers in Beijing, ASEAN still appears reluctant to issue the kind of strong statements necessary to show its commitment to making significant progress in managing the dispute.

This strategy of buying time, from the perspective of ASEAN–China relations, will not result in peaceful dispute settlement. China is continuing to grow larger both militarily and economically.

Any further delay in settling this dispute will only allow China to raise its bargaining power relative to ASEAN’s.

When the situation arises in which ASEAN cannot catch up with China, that will be the time when peaceful dispute settlement is no longer plausible.

Should Japan boost its ailing economy by arming Asia?

So the winds shift. Japan and the Philippines agree to deepen their strategic partnership as the Asia Pacific region changes. As the AFP article notes, “Both countries are locked in separate territorial disputes with China.”

Specifically, Japan is to help the Philippines improve its coast guard ability, possibly including the sale of 10 multi-role coast guard response vessels. While Japan is taking small steps out of the post-war shadow of legislated pacifism, I can’t see a new Japanese war machine any time soon.

Only today, Japan announced a $117 billion economic stimulus with the aim of boosting economic growth by 2 percentage points. The economy, which shrank 0.9 per cent in the 3rd quarter is officially in recession. But before this recession, it has long faced deflation, an aging population, a shrinking workforce and a general economic malaise after the stellar growth until the late 1980s. The government is carrying debts of more than 204 per cent of GDP.

The stimulus flagged today is about newly elected PM Shinzo Abe’s bootstrap policy to turn Japan’s economy around. It would be interesting to see Japan twin its dual need to boost its flagging economy by selling ships and armaments to its Asian neighors in need of hardware to respond to China in the region. I understand the Japanese still make good submarines.