“Germany now has a bright foot in the door”, or, U-boats of the Indo-Pacific

So writes Felix Seidler – somewhat gleefully, as he explains the benefit of Singapore’s purchase of two Type 218SG U-boats.

In addition to the potential for these lucrative arcontracts, Germany has an interest in a stable, peaceful maritime arc running from Singapore and Vladivostok. China’s re-armament, coupled with a more assertive military doctrine, and its aggressive enforcement ensures the opposite.

Seidler flags growing doubt about the US pivot in the region, and says “the countries of the region must be able to balance China’s rise, at least partially, by themselves. Therefore, German-built subs can surely do their share.”

As the post-WWII order erodes, you can’t help but wonder where it will leave Germany. Just weeks ago, erstwhile German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle was on the streets of Kiev, stirring things up with the Kremlin. If geography is destiny, a Germany unchained from that post-WWII feeling, will resume its role in international affairs. I can’t help but think that’s also part of the subtext of all the Stasi-talk regarding the Snowden allegations.

And so, here come the U-Boats of the Indo-Pacific, courtesy of Singapore.

Senkaku/Diaoyu issue triggers a spat between China, Singapore

Quotes from a speech by Singapore’s Prime Minister have infuriated China, or at least the editorial writers at the China state-friendly Global Times.

The Singapore PM pointed out that a tactical victory in the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute could damage the China brand elsewhere.

The key quote at the center of the disagreement between the Global Times and Singapore is taken from a speech Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong given in Japan (from the South China Morning Post):

What you [China] gain on the Senkakus [Diaoyu Islands] or the South China Sea… you lose in terms of your broader reputation and standing in the world, you have to make that calculation very carefully.”

There is an entire debate about how the quotes were reported and what their original source was, which the SCMP article explains.

Nonetheless, the anger is instructive. It shows how sensitive China is about its claim and how sensitive Singapore is about being seen as partisan in the issue.

Singapore is considered something of a leading light for Asian’s political evolution. In fact, around the time of China’s leadership transition, there was discussion in China of Singapore being a possible model for the kind of political structure China could ultimately adopt.

Naming and shaming China over cyberspying

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks at the opening plenary session of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, June 1, 2013. Hagel will meet with defense ministers at the event and then travel to Brussels to meet with NATO defense ministers.

That seems to be the US’s strategy, with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel calling China out at the International Institute for Strategic Studies Asia Security Summit in Singapore on June 1. It’s pretty ballsy but apparently after the Mandiant report was published and publicized, some of the relentless cyberbreaches slowed for a while, so the US is just testing out a new public-shaming strategy.

China, predictably, has countered by questioned the US claim about its Asia pivot is not about containing China’s rise.

In any case, the world will watch to see what kind of language on hacking Obama uses in public with Xi when they meet next week. 

I suppose this US shaming behavior would be unthinkable if China were a Western power. Different times call for different types of diplomacy. 

(Photo: courtesy US Defense Dept)