A few defense and security links, curated for Flashpoints readers:
The biggest Asia-Pacific defense story this week is China’s decision to increase its defense budget by 12.2 percent to about $132 billion for the next fiscal year. Notice that the figure is noticeably uncorrelated with China’s 7.7 percent actual growth rate (with a 7.5 percent target rate). The numbers are expected, of course, and send a clear signal across the region that China is taking its investments in military hardware seriously. Contrast the Chinese trend with the United States’ belt-tightening on defense spending. The United States and China are, of course, nowhere near to a convergence in defense spending. Our China editor Shannon Tiezzi takes a look at the similarities and differences between the two budgets.
China’s J-20 stealth fighter has been the target of much peering and speculation by analysts in the West. The J-20’s design appear to be flawed particularly if it’s goal was stealth above all else. However, according to new reports, several problematic elements of the aircraft’s design have been modified, ostensibly to improve stealth performance. The J-20 isn’t expected to serve in the PLAAF anytime soon; the Pentagon estimates that it will enter service in 2018. As far as anyone knows, the J-20 appears to be designed specifically for indigenous use by the Chinese air force. China has not yet pitched it for export unlike the J-31.
In case you missed it, Zachary Keck and I have started a regular podcast of geopolitics, security and defense issues for The Diplomat. In the latest episode, we discuss the implications of the Kunming terrorist attack last weekend for Chinese domestic security policy and the recent spate of diplomatic activity surrounding a possible resumption of the Six Party Talks (which I wrote about in more detail here).
A post over at the ASPI Strategist examines Fiji’s relevance to Australia’s interests in the South Pacific (hint: Fiji is not too high up the list).
As the crisis in Ukraine continues to remain on the top of the U.S. foreign policy radar, the U.S. and NATO have decided to increase its air power in Europe. The U.S. is dispatching a few F-15s and one KC-135 refueling aircraft to Poland.
Speaking of Ukraine, while the crisis doesn’t appear to directly affect the Asia-Pacific region, the geopolitics of the situation and the precedents set by Russia’s action and the Western response could have important implications for how Asian nations approach their own disputes in the future. Flashpoints author Robert Farley examines the importance of precedents in international affairs, and what Putin’s precedent in the Crimean invasion could signal to East Asian states. Also on Flashpoints, I take a look at how the spillover from the Ukraine crisis could create a major headache for the United States as it plans to withdraw troops and hardware from Afghanistan.
Also amid the Ukrainian crisis, Russia conducted a scheduled ICBM test, firing the missile successfully to a target in Kazakhstan. Pentagon officials were eager to make it clear that they had been notified of the test and that it was a scheduled occurrence – not an act of machismo because of the situation in Crimea.