In a move that would make fabled Chinese explorer Zheng He proud, the Chinese navy has ventured into the Indian Ocean for exercises, passing through Indonesia on the way.
This is an approximate map of the path taken by People’s Liberation Navy ships Changbaishan, Wuhan and Haikou taken in late January 2014. The landmass at the bottom right is Australia.
The path is based on information from the Associated Press and the Australia-based thinktank, the Lowy Interpreter.
Any fear in the wake of this unannounced visit to the neighborhood will certainly build the case for a more capable Australian submarine fleet. US foreign policy realist John Mearsheimer laid out this scenario in 2010 in an article for the UK Spectator.
Japan and Indonesia are taking small steps in the area of cooperating on defence. This is reminder for anyone who thinks Japan’s past role in the Asian region will prevent them from building ties today. The cooperation appears modest – disaster relief and counter terrorism. But the shared interests are apparent.
The equation is simple: with the exception of China and Korea, historical anger about Japan’s role in WWII becomes less intense now that fears for China are escalating.
Without a doubt, the Indonesians have felt the squeeze of the Chinese power. While Japan, since rebuilding, has been very much inside the international, multilateral framework that China is outside of. And these movements on defence diplomacy are a reminder of sea change that is gripping the region.
“As the two countries have observed Indonesia-Japan ties are very good, robust and improving, especially in the sectors of defense and military,” Yudhoyono said upon welcoming his Japanese guests.
Separately, this article from Australia makes a good point about how some nations in the region, New Zealand, but also a lesser degree Australia, have in recent years bought into the notion that they are “post-modern” states that have little need for a military, as war itself is somewhat an outdated notion.
The thought reveals the far-flung perspective of the far-flung countries, which possibly more than the Europeans and Americans, have seized on more completely the mantra that a world of globalised trade could not possibly devolve into conflict. And yet, it underscores a naivete that is compounded by the distance and rosy scenarios of businessmen. I suppose countries like Indonesia knows a little about the risks based on geography. And for that reason, making common cause, in a limited capacity, with a more powerful neighbor – Japan – makes sense.