Satoshi Ikeuchi – AUKUS … The Announcement which Shook the World in 2021

The most significant development in the international security of Asia in 2021 was the announcement of AUKUS, a new trilateral security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The announcement on September 15 by the three Anglo-Saxon, English-speaking countries caught the rest of the world off-guard. It was an effective maritime security pact which will provide Australia the US technology to build nuclear-powered submarines.

The deal is told to cover deeper information sharing on cyber, AI and quantum technologies too. What is the importance of AUKUS? During the year 2021, the intensity of the great power rivalry between the US and China has been ratcheted up to a new level.

With this AUKUS pact, the maritime balance of power in the Indo-Pacific would be kept in favor of the US side for the foreseeable future. The United States showed its determination to keep its maritime superiority against the threat posed by increasingly assertive China. Australia, a pivotal country in Asia-Pacific region, finally and conclusively made it clear that it took the side of the US in the competition between two great powers.

Who lost Australia? What led Australia to take such a drastic turn, rushing to the US camp? Australia was once been a country which kept a Pro-China attitude in its Asia policy, which was justifiable in view of its economic interests and opportunity in the Chinese market.

A serious reassessment and reflection need to be done by Chinese leaders and policymakers, to reassess its behavior with its neighbors. The world is carefully paying attention to Chinese internal discussions, to know whether or not the Chinese reflect on their own recent behavior, which sometimes involved bullying and harassing their “minor” neighbors, eventually alienating them. Even the most promising potential economic partners of China have been publicly blamed of its disloyalty and denounced as if to be a denigrated vassal state.

Chinese Communist Party adopted the third “historical resolution” on November 12 that glorified the achievement of Xi Jinping and elevated his status only equal to two great leaders, Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. It is widely known that the intention of these extraordinary measures taken recently is to secure him an unprecedented third term as the leader of CCP. Such a development in Chinese internal politics makes even the faintest hope of the self-reflection and restraint of its treatment of neighboring countries on the side of Chinese leaders, unrealistic.

Indo-Pacific network of minilateral security frameworks The AUKUS complements other security partnerships in the wider Indo-Pacific, on top of them, the QUAD: Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, which is comprised of four countries, the US, Japan, Australia, and India. The Quad held two summit meetings during the year 2021, one in March, in virtual format, and one in September 24, in person in Washington DC.

The next summit meeting in person is expected to be held in Japan in next Spring. The frequency of the summit meetings suggests the centrality and the pivotal nature of this framework of Quad in the new Indo-Pacific century. Also, the four-countries format is becoming the model in other parts of the world.

Minilateralism is a trend of the times, particularly in the field of international security, complementing unfunctional or non-existent multilateral security organizations and countering unilateralism by one of two superpowers. The scramble for the Indo-Pacific The United States, two decades after the 9/11, finally keeps the proper distance from the Middle East and is now shifting its strategic focus on the wider Indo-Pacific.

Major European countries like the UK, France, Germany, and the Netherlands are passing through the Middle East and scrambling for the Indo-Pacific, searching for creating new partnerships with regional powers in the Indo-Pacific, such as Japan, India and Australia. The EU, as a whole, has now an official Indo-Pacific strategy. The EU adopted a new Indo-Pacific strategy, though it was unfortunately unveiled on September 16, the next day of the dramatic announcement of AUKUS.

Even though it was largely unnoticed by the bad timing, the EU document shows its intention to strengthen cooperation with countries in the region. Middle East in the Indo-Pacific in 2022 The development which must attract attention the most in the year 2022 is the further focus on the Indo-Pacific which would eventually encompass even the Middle East.

The Middle East regional powers may follow the trend of minilateralism in the field of international security and multiply the centripetal force toward the Indo-Pacific.

The so-called Middle Eastern Quad which consists of the United States, Israel, UAE and India is one of the precursors of this development which might unfold during the year 2022.

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