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Analysis
20-12-2016
Donald Trump kicks off new round of US-China conflict in Southeast Asia and the Korean Peninsula
Author : Hendrajit, Geopolitical analyst of the Global Future Institute (GFI)

Introduction

There are some trends that we have to look carefully ahead of the handover of office from Preesiden Barrack Obama to the new US president Donald Trump in January next year. Kompas daily Thursday (15/12) quoted the Trump's statement that the United States did not need to be tied with the One China Policy. Unless the US could gain benefits from China in trade or other fields. No doubt the Spokesman of the Chinese government An Fenghan on December 14 warned Washington that peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait would be damaged if American policy changed to formally recognize the existence of Taiwan.


Although the Trump's statement could be read simply as part of the Gun Boat Diplomacy, but inevitably the Trump's frontal statement will create new tensions between US and China in the future. Whereas One China Policy has been a cornerstone of foreign policy of the US and Chinese relations. In the One China Policy the United States recognizes Beijing as the official government of China though so far the US has still maintained unofficial relations with Taiwan. Taiwan split from China following the displacement of General Chiang Kai Shek by the new government of communist-leaning Mao Zhe Dong since 1949.
 
Therefore it is understandable that China looked at the Trump's statement ignoring the one China policy as the initial round of relations between the two countries that are not stable and healthy since the Shanghai agreement in 1972. Even worse, there will be a starting point of a military conflict between the two countries.
 
US-China tension has increasingly escalated following the Trump's statement accusing China of stealing US Navy research equipment in international waters, in this case is the US Navy's underwater unmanned spacecraft.
 
The most crucial of the incident that triggered the tensions between the two superpowers, was triggered by Donald Trump's controversial statement that even today though he is the presidential election winner, Trump still has not officially served as president in the White House. Imagine, though he has not been sworn in yet as president, Trump has been able to shake the diplomatic relations between the two countries, what if he has officially become president. Secondly, related to the incident of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, this indicates that China is actively increasing its military activities in the South China Sea.
 
Signs of reviving the Project New American Century (PNAC) in the era of President Trump?
 
Almost all newspapers highlighted only the posture of the US economy following a surprise win of presidential candidate Donald Trump against his competitor Hillary Clinton that ignored the most important aspect of the Trump governance in the next four years. Namely the US policy and strategy to other countries. Particularly to China which is currently the main competitor that has now been in a fight for influence in various regions of the world.
 
The main question of this theme is that, what is the Trump's commitment to the blueprint of US foreign policy during the administration of President George W Bush, the Project New American Century (PNAC)? We can see that in the last few months following the Trump's victory, US foreign policy will be marked by increasingly warming of global competition between the US and China.
 
Long before George W. Bush came to power January 2001, a document issued by a US "think-tank" had shown that there had been ongoing debate among American policy makers regarding the need to increase the more aggressive US intervention in Southeast Asia. after Bush became president, and a few months later launched a military invasion of Afghanistan to crush the Taliban government, Bush opened what became known as "the second front" in the "war to eradicate terrorism" in Southeast Asia. Following the occurrence of acts of terrorism in the WTC and the Pentagon in September 2001.
 
Then on the pretext of the War on Terror after September 2001, then in January 2003 the US sent no less than 660 people to reportedly become initial contingent to "exercise a duty" to the southern Philippines. In addition, Singapore and Malaysia urged the US to be more active in persecuting "Islamic fundamentalists," and urged the government of Megawati Sukarnoputri at the time to perform the same action. Then, American troops sent to the island of Basilan in the southern Philippines have been more and more numerous. Later it was revealed that they were to build construction projects aimed at facilitating major military operations.
 
Bush's statement about the "second front" directed to areas outside the Middle East is a real motive to create a pretext in order to launch a massive military escalation to the Southeast Asian region, which has become the most important battlefield between the US versus China.
 
An article from the Far Eastern Review suggested the motive was other than solely to the fight against terrorism in Southeast Asia. "The US campaign in connection with terrorism in Southeast Asia was unreasonable." The article went on to write: "Some have speculated the possibility of another motive. They are suspicious of the United States seeking the restoration of the stakes in strategic feet after being forced from their bases in the Philippines a decade ago. "
 
If we dismantle the stacks of old news and studies related to the actions of the right-wing neo-conservatives in the Pentagon that would constitute the core team of the Bush administration in the White House, to handle Southeast Asia, the US has apparently relied on the former US ambassador in Jakarta, Paul Wolfowitz as a key player that American involvement in Southeast Asia is placed as a top priority. Given Washington has crucial interests in the political, economic, and security. Wolfowitz then became the Deputy Secretary of Defense.
 
Interestingly, although a number of documents issued by some "think tanks" or institutions enagaed in strategic studies in Washington stressed the importance of the US in increasing military intervention in Southeast Asia, its pressure was clearly placed in the context of the involvement of military forces associated with the "threat" from China that is considered "expansionistic" and "strategic competitor." A major report published by the Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) in May 2001, reported: "the timing is exactly right for your government to focus attention on an area that has been often neglected of our attention, the result is always a disaster for us. "
 
The CFR report involving a group of academics, corporate executives, and government officials criticized the President Bill Clinton's negligence of Southeast Asia, that is considered to have been responsible for the causes of decline of US influence in the region. To counter the Chinese influence that continues to expand in the region, particularly in the South China Sea, then the United States must take clear and firm measures.
 
The CFR document urged to be prioritized that is based first and foremost on the position of the more assertive US military in the region. CFR document vaguely stated "A quarter century after the United States involved in the grueling war in Southeast Asia, a war shaped an entire generation, the region still keeps the complex challenges for policy makers and the American public."
 
To dominate the region, then the control of the sea lanes that have a key value or a choke point in the whole of Southeast Asia would put Washington in a position to pressure China. By strengthening its military presence in the region, "the United States will be able to face the challenges of the claims of China in the South China Sea and the disputed islands, Spratley and Paracel." Behind the statement, American seemed to eye reserves of oil and gas that are quite large in these areas. So that it confirmed the importance of counteracting the influence and dominance of forces from outside the region, especially China.
 
If the Bush scheme is retained in the era of Donald Trump, we can be sure the US-China conflict would escalate not only in Southeast Asia, but also in the Korean peninsula. Even in the report of the Rand Corporation, to confront China, Rand Corpiration advised to develop a strategy they called hendging strategy. Which is essentially the same as the old concept Containment Strategy during the Cold War.
 
The Rand Corporation report boldly concluded that the emergence of China as a regional power in Southeast Asia and would increase the potential for armed conflict. Only America is today the dominant power outside the region. Meanwhile, economic growth in the Asia Pacific region, which is heavily dependent on the ability to maintain American presence and influence in the region as well as the opening of unimpeded access to sea lanes that exist in the region.
 
Based on the Rand Corporation's conclusion, it is clear the US was prepared to relaunch a possible war in Southeast Asia. On this stand, the ASEAN's stance, particularly Indonesia, has become a very important factor. Besides Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Brunei which incidentally are traditional allies of the US and Britain in the region. Moreover, Singapore is the most ideal location to master the "Choke Point" such as the Strait of Malacca, and access to Vietnam and the Philippines to help establish air superiority over the lanes in the South China Sea.
 
Tensions could reach the Korean Peninsula
 
Predictions of increasingly sharpening military conflict between China versus US, appear not only in Southeast Asia and South China Sea, but also in the Korean Peninsula. The key factor is when some time ago Washington intended to create the Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) to deal with the Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles launched by North Korea some time ago. So that the United States has planned to develop ICBMs in South Korea, its strategic ally in the Korean peninsula since the end of World War II.
 
However, given the increasing global competition between United States and the People's Republic of China (PRC) in the Asia Pacific region, the US plans to develop ICBMs in South Korea, would likely create political and security instability in the Korean peninsula.
 
Before further highlighting the global constellation that will be created on the Korean Peninsula following the US plans to develop ICBMs in South Korea to compensate North Korea, we should first explain in detail the matters of ICBM itself.
 
ICBM is a long-range missile that can hit intercontinental targets. This missile is launched with the power of the rocket launch itself to be flown remotely and it could immediately be stopped.
 
US cues to develop ICBM on the Korean Peninsula under the pretext of facing the threat of North Korean ICBMs, presumably the development needs to be examined carefully, because it is quite worrying for the stability of regional security on the Korean Peninsula, and could even be bad for Indonesia.
 
But worse still, at the same time it would provoke China to escalate its forces and military presence on the Korean Peninsula, and the Asia Pacific region in general. As well as in the Southeast Asian region following several diplomatic incidents as a result of the two Donald Trump statements mentioned above.



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