Can Military Diplomacy Keep the Peace in 2013?
Image Credit: U.S. Department of Defense (Flickr)

Can Military Diplomacy Keep the Peace in 2013?


Is military diplomacy a contradiction in terms? Not according to two prominent Australians, who have recently been talking up the prospects for bilateral and multilateral military exercises as a way of managing security tensions in Asia.

Recently former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd outlined a roadmap for security cooperation in Asia, especially between China and the United States.  This was one of his most clear and thoughtful speeches – a pity he had not given it while in power – and emphasized the need for practical confidence-building measures and cooperation between the U.S. and Chinese militaries.

Then at the end of December, Australia’s serving defense force chief, General David Hurley, gave an interview in which he discussed the possibility that Australia would host joint exercises with Chinese forces, and possibly also trilaterally with the Americans, as a way to build habits of communication and predictability. This followed a bilateral exercise off the coast of Sydney with three visiting Chinese ships, building on earlier drills in 2007 and 2010.

The idea that constructive interactions like this can build trust and reduce risks of conflict is a fine one. Australia has long been active in using its defense force, especially its navy, as a diplomatic influence multiplier, and is unusually well-suited to act as a convener and location for such activities. This need not only be with its American ally and the Chinese but also with other Asian maritime players with which Canberra has good or improving defense ties, notably Indonesia, Japan and India.

Yet it is important for policymakers and observers to be realistic about the limits of such indirect confidence-building measures – indirect because they typically take place away from zones of confrontation and tend to concentrate on uncontroversial issues like disaster relief rather than the use of force.

There’s little doubt that seasoned military officers harbor no illusions when they take part in exercises with foreign counterparts.  For them this is as much about showing competence or gathering intelligence as it is about sharing skills or building patterns of operational predictability and communication, though these are genuine objectives too.

Certainly in the past decade China has greatly stepped up the tempo and depth of its indirect defense diplomacy – ship visits and low-intensity exercises – with other nations in the Indo-Pacific Asian region.  But this does not seem to have translated into heightened trust or operational communication in the South China Sea and East China Sea.

As naval expert Geoffrey Till argues in a comprehensive new book on Asia’s naval expansion, it is debatable whether positive rhetoric and cooperation in, for instance, counter-piracy can provide ‘sufficient defense against naval modernization turning into destabilizing competition.” 

A more important test of strategic goodwill and an international diplomatic priority for 2013 should be to encourage China’s navy and other maritime forces to engage constructively with their counterparts in a much more direct form of confidence-building. That is, establishing protocols and communication links for preventing or managing incidents in contested waters. This happens to be another part of the regional security formula proposed in Kevin Rudd’s recent speech, and I have argued for some time that it is essential to limiting the risks of war in maritime Asia. 

Here the onus is on frontline players – China, Japan, the United States, Vietnam, the Philippines – rather than well-meaning middle powers such as Australia.

But progress on this front will first require a basic political decision by China – and other claimants, notably Vietnam – to eschew the use of risky seamanship and provocative maritime maneuvers as policy tools in advancing maritime claims. As things stand, it is likely to be another uncomfortable year in the waters along China's perilous edge.

January 27, 2013 at 11:50

You are an artificial self-qualified expert who thinks, wow, you have expert views and need to impose them on others. From your regular inputs to this forum, you are simply and totally artificial and too fond of churning up absurd remarks and crazily false representations. You still think that Nato is a holy outfit ? ? ? You are nuts. And a very artificial one at that.

chicago dan
January 17, 2013 at 16:40

Hi, I met yer mom last nite and she says ya nothing special. Are ya from Mali ?

January 11, 2013 at 10:06

MajorDamage wrote:
January 8, 2013 at 10:41 pm

Let's see here, you claim that all of the waters the PRC is currently putting into dispute and "Just use China's strong military arm to truly establish China's sovereignty over its rightful waters and territories" will put everything right?
My question to you is: if these have always been the rightful waters, etc, why are they in dispute only now when the PRC PLAN has about 25% of an actual navy to float nearby? Where were these claims 10, 20, 30 years ago?
You want to use the 'big stick' and start kicking around weaker nations? What's the hold up? What is stopping you?
You lay out a perfect battle plan to accomplish this. Or maybe it won't quite go that way?

China has always claimed the E. China Sea and S. China Sea territories for hundreds of years to thousands of years.  The reason why these territories are in dispute now is precisely because China did not enforce its sovereignty with its military.  Since China kept talking about "putting aside disputes" and "joint development" it has created an impression that China does not have sovereignty over these "disputed" territories.  It has also given the aggressorss the excuse to dispute China's rightful sovereignty.  An example is what is being asked by Major Damage here.   Therefore, the new team of Chinese leaders should wake up to the reality that continuing to beg for peaceful negotiation will ultimately weaken China's sovereignty claim and lose it entirely unless China can through its powerful military firmly establish its effective control over its rightful sovereign territories NOW.  China does not need the permission or even the understanding of any other countries for it to control its sovereignt territories.  Any further show of weakness will not solve the problem but make it worse.  China must use force now!!!!!!!!!  In any event, China's enemies will always demonize China no matter what it does.  So why care about them?


January 11, 2013 at 09:51

What happened to my posts in response to Abe?  Why have they disappeared?

January 10, 2013 at 03:52

ACT wrote:
January 7, 2013 at 11:23 am

so, your argument is effectively: "asian nations trade more with China, so the aggressors who beguiled China in the past should leave it alone and allow it to reclaim its hegemony over the region and in the process take revenge against them, because this is how it has always been, and always should be". Just how blatantly hypocritical can you get, Liang1a?

Act, have you thought all this nonsense up by yourself or did you have help?  This is merely idiotic compared to Alice in Wonderland which has a lot of meaningful thoughts hidden behind the overt fantasies.  Where in any of this part of my post have I talked about Asian countries trading more with China?  Though obviously China has or will soon be the dominant trading partners of all Asian countries, that is not the point I had made.  The point is China has been very placating to the point of appearing weak.  China is the victim with its sovereign territories being invaded and occupied by foreign aggressors.  But you already knew that.  Therefore, you're the hypocrite for spinning China's rightful defense of its invaded sovereign territories into an aggression against poor defenseless puny states.  And how can China "take revenge" if it has not been wronged first.  Therefore, your denigration and demonization of China is poorly constructed by admitting that China has been wronged.  So if China has been wronged first, then it obviously has the moral right to exact revenge on the unrepentent wrongdoers.  So your deomonization of China falls flat on its ugly face. 
The truth is China has always lived in peace and harmony with its smaller neighbors.  There was no need for China to attack any of them because China itself was the richest and there were nothing that China wished to take from these poorer neighbors.  As China now becomes progressively stronger and richer it will again provide the stability under which the entire world can live in peace, justice and prosperity.  That is the Chinese way in contrast to the devilish slaughter inflicted on the world as the West and the Japnese slaughtered their way around the world in pursuit of gold and silver and dominance.  In fact, as ACT the Hypocritter said, you're describing yourself as you demonized China.  You just looked into a mirror and started portraying yourself.  You're indeed the demonic hypocrite.


January 10, 2013 at 00:57

Liang1a, I feel sorry for you. I can see you as an emotionless cold blooded ultranationalist Chinese, whose racist hatred toward other fellow Asians has no boundary. For those years of living there, Japan fed you, gave you a decent life but this hasn’t changed you one bit. Like the most of Chinese here in this forum, you Chinese are a bunch of ungrateful lost souls, talking tough but doing nothing, bullying the weaker but cowing to the stronger. Can china dare to take on the Russians, even they slaughtered Chinese like sheeps?

January 9, 2013 at 15:30

abe wrote:
January 6, 2013 at 3:23 am

are you completely nuts? what you said makes everyone think that you just escaped the madhouse. Be a little nicer and civilized, then maybe you could have a green card or a temporary visa to visit Japan.
It is obvious that you think anybody who supports China's rights and dignity must be nuts.  And you assume that the height of anybody's ambition is to get permanent residence in Japan.  (Incidentally, green cards are permanent residential cards to the US.  I don't know if PR card in Japan is also green.)  Rest assured I won't live in Japan even if you paid me.  Who wants to go live in Japan with all its crumbling infrastructure and collapsing economy?  And I had not only visited Japan but had lived there for many years.  So I know all about Japan.  To be fair, I can think of worse places in the world than Japan.  But for a Chinese, Japan is far down the list of places I prefer to live.
And if you have any brains then argue with facts and logic and prove that it is nuts to think China can be stronger than Japan.  The sad truth for you is that you can't.  Other than your hubris you Japnese got nothing but a miserable future to look forward to.  Remember that China had been the most glorious nation on earth for most of the human history until some 200 years ago.  But China is already rising rapidly.  With the departure of the Dengists who have been selling out China to the Japnese and demeaning China in the eyes of the world to such an extent that even puny little Philippines dared to insult China by renaming S. China Sea as the W. Philippine Sea.  But very soon now, China will resurge and show a new face to the world.  Just wait and see.


January 9, 2013 at 09:58

Hey, before you post your damnned smart-ass comment why not check up on real facts first. Ever heard of the Cairo Declaration or the Potsdam Agreement ?  Japan as the defeated aggressor had to returned territories seized by military conquest. Their victims were not obligated to press for the return, rather it was the guilty party who needed to hand them back. Why are you such a nerd. Or are you just plain blind ? Blinded by the poisonous bile flowing through your soul ? ? ? Yes, no ?

pro-Nato crap
January 9, 2013 at 09:36

Hello, ed staff, I appreciate you allowing my response to appear. Thanks. I have always wondered why the U.S. air command in 1945 overlooked Kure (that big naval facility) and selected the second city. I believe it was either a terrible mistake born out of haste or a  sheer cold, calculated and deliberate decision to spare the huge base for later use by the victors.

January 9, 2013 at 03:10

No matter how much you hate me or Japan, we Japanese still love Chinese women. Lets enjoy together, ok?

January 8, 2013 at 22:41

I'm offended. If anything, the PRC leadership and the few Chinese that actually have access to the internet and this forum should read MY posts.
Let's see here, you claim that all of the waters the PRC is currently putting into dispute and  "Just use China's strong military arm to truly establish China's sovereignty over its rightful waters and territories"  will put everything right?
My question to you is: if these have always been the rightful waters, etc, why are they in dispute only now when the PRC PLAN has about 25% of an actual navy to float nearby? Where were these claims 10, 20, 30 years ago?
You want to use the 'big stick' and start kicking around weaker nations? What's the hold up? What is stopping you?
You lay out a perfect battle plan to accomplish this. Or maybe it won't quite go that way?

January 8, 2013 at 22:19

So, you're entire hatred toward the United States (and white people apparently) is based upon a (possibly drug-induced) dream/fantasy/non-reality event by your (possibly only) friend that you somehow rationalize and correlate to only the relationships of the US to other countries?
In your (and I use this loosely) mind, no other nation in the history of Earth has ever done anything negative to anyone else but the US? And your next supporting piece of evidence is your own description that "is actually taken from a true story" without further identifying that 'true story' at all?
How did you manage to break away from the opium den long enough to post this?

January 8, 2013 at 15:20

China must systematically weaken all potential pro-US regimes in the neighbourhood. Pakistan was a US lover in the 1980s but not anymore. If India is disintegrated into smaller nations, it benefits both China and Indian minorities. Granting independence to Indian states should be China's top priority.

War in 2013
January 8, 2013 at 08:02

You are one hell of a bourgeoisie liar or an out-and-out liar or more likely a Goebellian liar. You are lying through your teeth. Since when did Russia invade and divide nations ? Did Russia invade and divide Nato ? If so, we would be experiencing total Armageddon by now. GET OFF this forum you liar from hell. A lie repeated often enough becomes truth and this is exactly what your are doing, you scummy liar. You are ONE HECK OF A GOEBELLIAN LIAR. Go wash your dirty scummy mouth with industrial-strength detergent. Do it now.

ACT the hypocritter
January 8, 2013 at 07:40

You are merely describing yourself, ACT. You are definitely one big hypocrite of the first order. Who were the people or nations that trampled and enslaved other nations in the past three centuries ? ? ? The nation of your grandfather or the nations of your ancestors. Go to hell you, hypocrite.

pro-Nato crap
January 8, 2013 at 06:43

Yes, the U.S. is very moderate. Very nice and moderate just like a lady angel from heaven. The U.S. is  THE ONLY  nation in the world to have atom-bombed two cities plus the hydrogen-bombing of the South Pacific Islands plus the illegal DU-bombing of Iraq and the widespread napalm-bombing of Vietnam and Korea. The U.S. is really very lovely and deliciously moderate. BTW, Nagasaki has earned the dubious distinction of being the only Christian site in Asia to have received the 'special gift' from the U.S. (this fact was suppressed by the editorial staff in a comment I gave some time ago. Hopes it will get pass them this time). 

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