Major Communication Breakdown During Chinese Live-Fire Exercises in Djibouti – 11/28/17

On 23 November, the Chinese military conducted live-fire exercises with ZTL-11 amphibious assault vehicles at the Maryam Training Area in the Republic of Djibouti. These exercises were closely followed by Western militaries based in Djibouti. This is not because these militaries currently see the Chinese military as an immediate threat in the region. Rather, it is because they view the Chinese military as another force with which they have “to share a common operating space.” Western militaries therefore perceive that it is in their strategic interest to keep a close eye on any Chinese military activities on the continent.

In this context, it is perhaps not surprising that reports of what actually transpired during the live-fire exercises are beginning to trickle out. Yesterday, foreign military officials revealed that they were not only surprised that the Chinese military conducted the exercises outside of the normal hours at the range. They also felt that the Chinese military did not have the proper authorization to conduct the exercises in the first place. This led to intense speculation over what statement the Chinese military was trying to make with these exercises.

Earlier today, new information came to light that casts a shadow over these concerns. According to a foreign military official, the Chinese military was provided authorization to conduct these exercises by the Djiboutian Government. Afterwards, the Djiboutian Government attempted to notify the French military prior to the exercises. However, there was a “technical issue that delayed the reception of the fax.” So, the French Forces in Djibouti were not aware that the Chinese military had the authorization to conduct the exercises until the last 24 hours. This was problematic. The French Forces in Djibouti are ultimately responsible for overseeing the Maryam Training Area. So, other Western militaries were in the dark about whether the Chinese military had the authorization to conduct the exercises until this morning.

If the latest reports are true, then this coordination problem not only provides a powerful indictment of the current status of the range coordination process. It also exposes the day-to-day challenge of trying to coordinate the military activities of the many foreign military forces operating in Djibouti. It is therefore in the best interest of the Djiboutian Government and the overseas military bases in Djibouti to start working toward developing a new mechanism for addressing these problems. Of course, this will be difficult in light of the many competing interests of the foreign military forces in Djibouti. The Djiboutian Government and the overseas military bases in Djibouti will therefore need to be extremely creative when trying to work out a legally valid solution to these problems.

Michael Edward Walsh is the Director of the Overseas Military Bases in Africa Initiative at the Islands Society. Separately, he is a Research Fellow for African Studies at The Johns Hopkins University SAIS. This article is derived from his ongoing doctoral research on counter-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa and Southern Arabia.

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Reported Unauthorized Use of Djiboutian Range Fuels Speculation on Chinese Intentions in Africa – 11/27/17

Last week, the Chinese military conducted live-fire exercises at a range in the Republic of Djibouti. News of these exercises made headlines across China and around the world. Images of the soldiers and tanks participating in the exercises were also widely shared on social media.

According to media reporting, Chinese military officials maintain that the purpose of these exercises was to put their strategies to the test. They also point out that these exercises are consistent with their stated commitment to ensure that their soldiers stationed in Djibouti conduct regular military exercises on par with their colleagues stationed back home. Meanwhile, Chinese military experts suggest that these exercises were not just a way to showcase the Chinese military on the world stage. They may also be a prologue to more complex drills to be carried out later this year.

Any live-fire exercises by the Chinese military will be closely followed by Western militaries in Djibouti. This is not because Western militaries see the Chinese military as an immediate threat in Eastern Africa. Rather, it is because Western militaries view the Chinese military as “an opposing force” with which they have “to share a common operating space.” It is perhaps not surprising then that reports of what actually transpired during the live-fire exercises are beginning to trickle out. For example, a foreign military official recently revealed that the Chinese military was observed using the range outside of their scheduled permit for use. According to the foreign military official, this may have been an intentional affront to the French military who manages the ranges. If so, then the Chinese military may have been trying to make the statement that they have effectively replaced the French military as the dominant military force in the country.

In an opinion article for the Global Times, Su Tan suggests that last week’s live-fire exercises aroused concern because of “persistent speculation over China’s intentions.” Unfortunately, the Chinese Government has done very little to assuage concerns over the intentions of the Chinese military in this part of the world. Moreover, the People’s Liberation Army Security Base in Djibouti remains shrouded in secrecy since it opened in August. And, the Chinese military has been aggressive in their interactions with their American counterparts since their first live-fire exercise in September. In this context, last week’s live-fire exercises were bound to fuel further speculation over China’s intentions in the region. The reported use of the range outside of their scheduled permit of use only adds more fuel to that fire.

Michael Edward Walsh is the Director of the Overseas Military Bases in Africa Initiative at the Islands Society. Separately, he is a Research Fellow for African Studies at The Johns Hopkins University SAIS. This article is derived from his ongoing doctoral research on counter-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa and Southern Arabia.

Note: This article was re-distributed by the DefenceWeb – Africa’s Leading Defence News Portal.

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DefenceWeb Features Analysis of Japanese Military Base in Djibouti by Michael Edward Walsh – 11/24/17

On 24 November 2017, DefenceWeb published analysis on the upcoming expansion of the Japan Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti by Michael Edward Walsh. The report was also featured on the Africa Security Monitor as part of the Overseas Military Bases in Africa Initiative.

Downloadable Copies: Islands Society & DefenceWeb

About Michael Edward Walsh
Michael Edward Walsh is a research fellow for African Studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Separately, he is also president of the Islands Society and director of the Overseas Military Bases in Africa Initiative. Over the last decade, Mr. Walsh’s work has appeared in dozens of international news outlets and think tank publications. He has also received a number of awards, including the Vivian Award from the National Press Club and a Certificate of Appreciation from the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

About the Islands Society
The Islands Society is a “Top-Rated” American 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Its mission is to inspire and empower islanders to participate in foreign affairs and overseas engagements in order to affect positive change in their local communities. The nonprofit therefore develops and implements projects that are designed to help islanders realize their full potential on the world stage.

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Image Credit: OMBAI

CSIS Features Fieldwork Report on People’s Liberation Army Security Base in Djibouti by Michael Edward Walsh – 11/24/17

On 17 November 2017, The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) published a fieldwork report on the People’s Liberation Army Security Base in Djibouti by Michael Edward Walsh. The report was later featured on the Africa Security Monitor as part of the Overseas Military Bases in Africa Initiative.

Downloadable Copies: CSIS & Islands Society

About Michael Edward Walsh
Michael Edward Walsh is a research fellow for African Studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Separately, he is also president of the Islands Society and director of the Overseas Military Bases in Africa Initiative. Over the last decade, Mr. Walsh’s work has appeared in dozens of international news outlets and think tank publications. He has also received a number of awards, including the Vivian Award from the National Press Club and a Certificate of Appreciation from the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

About the Islands Society
The Islands Society is a “Top-Rated” American 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Its mission is to inspire and empower islanders to participate in foreign affairs and overseas engagements in order to affect positive change in their local communities. The nonprofit therefore develops and implements projects that are designed to help islanders realize their full potential on the world stage.

Website
Facebook
Twitter

Image Credit: OMBAI

The Expansion of the Japan Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti – Michael Edward Walsh

Last year, Japanese officials revealed that the Japanese Government would lease additional land to expand the Japan Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti. According to media reporting at the time, the expansion of the base is intended to serve as a counterweight to the expanding strategic footprint of China in Africa and the Middle East. The Japanese Government still plans to lease additional land to expand the Japan Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti. In fact, the Japanese Government hopes to finalize a lease on the additional land within a week or so. However, the Japanese Government does not intend to build on this land until the next fiscal year. This is due to cyclical budgetary constraints. Once the lease is finalized, it will be interesting to see whether the expansion of the base will lead to a further expansion of the functions of the base. At the end of the day, the Japan Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti serves as an important mechanism for advancing the normalization agenda of the Abe Administration. The expansion of the base therefore not only provides an opportunity to further expand the functions of the base. It also provides an opportunity to further reform Japanese security policy.

The Japan Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti

The Japan Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti is the first Japanese overseas military base since World War II. Opened on 5 July 2011, the base is located on the northwest side of the Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport. Unlike the French Naval Base of Djibouti, the Japan Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti does not provide docking for naval ships. It is also considerably smaller than the American and French expeditionary bases at Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport. However, the base does provide the Japan Self-Defense Force with direct access to a joint civilian/military-use airport. It also provides the Japanese Self-Defense Force with easy access to the American, French, and Italian expeditionary bases. This is useful in supporting multinational operations.

Overseas Military Bases at Djibouti-Ambouli International Airport (Source: OMBAI)
The Function of the Japan Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti

The Japan Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti was specifically designed to support counter-piracy operations in the immediate vicinity of the Gulf of Aden. The primary function of the base remains to provide support for counter-piracy operations. However, the Japanese Government now supports counter-piracy operations beyond just the immediate vicinity of the Gulf of Aden. In fact, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces regularly conduct counter-piracy operations in a block of the Indian Ocean south of the island of Socotra Island, Yemen and east of the Puntland State of Somalia. These operations are in support of Combined Task Force 151 (CTF-151).

Approximate Location of Expanded Japanese Counter-Piracy Operations South of Socotra Island, Yemen (Source: OMBAI)
The function of the base has also expanded beyond support for counter-piracy operations. In recent years, the Japanese military has used the base to support peacekeeping operations in South Sudan. The Japanese military has also used the base to support the emergency evacuation of Japanese citizens from South Sudan. More recently, the function of the base expanded to support for multilateral non-combat exercises. In fact, the base was used to a joint-nation noncombatant evacuation operation (JN-NEO) exercise less than two months ago. This exercise was initiated by the Japanese Government. And, it marked the first time that the base has supported this kind of activity.

The Expansion of the Japan Self-Defenses Force Base in Djibouti

The Japan Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti was not designed to support current operational demands on the base. That is one of the main reasons why the Japanese Government is pursuing the lease of additional land that can be used to expand the base. According to foreign military officials, the Japanese Government has already identified an approximately 3-hectare parcel of land that they intend to lease. This land is part of an empty lot adjacent to northeast side of the current base. The Japanese Government has largely settled on the terms for the lease. In fact, the Japanese Government is close to finalizing the lease with the Djiboutian Government. The Japanese Government hopes to be able to do so in the next week or so. However, the Japanese Self-Defense Force is not in a position to immediately build upon the additional land due to cyclical budgetary constraints. For this reason, it is unlikely that the base facilities will be expanded before the next fiscal year.

Empty Lot Partially Sought by the Japanese Government (Source: OMBAI)

The Politics of the Japan Self-Defenses Force Base in Djibouti

If the expansion of the Japan Self-Defenses Force Base in Djibouti moves forward, it will be interesting to see whether the expansion of the base will be followed by an expansion of the functions of the base. As pointed out in a separate article, Japanese military activities in Eastern Africa are a significant element in Abe’s “historical mission” to amend the Japanese Constitution. In recent years, the Abe Administration has used counter-piracy operations in the Western Indian Ocean, peacekeeping operations on the African continent, emergency evacuation operations from Africa countries, and multilateral exercise in Djibouti to advance incremental changes in Japanese security policy. The Japanese Self-Defense Force Base in Djibouti enables these kinds of activities in Africa and the Middle East. The base therefore serves a higher political purpose. It is an important mechanism for advancing the normalization agenda of the Abe Administration. In this light, the expansion of the base not only provides an opportunity to further expand the functions of the base beyond support for counter-piracy operations. It also provides an opportunity to further normalize Japanese security policy beyond the reforms that have already taken place.

Michael Edward Walsh is a Research Fellow for African Studies at The Johns Hopkins University SAIS. He is also the Director of the Overseas Military Bases in Africa Initiative at the Islands Society. This article is derived from his ongoing doctoral research on counter-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa and Southern Arabia.

Note: An edited version of this article was re-published by DefenceWeb – Africa’s Leading Defence News Portal.

Michael Edward Walsh Invited to Give Lecture at Camp Lemonnier – 8/14/17

Tomorrow, Michael Edward Walsh will presenting a guest lecture to senior military personnel assigned to the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa. The lecture is part of the Horn of Africa Experts Speaking Series organized by the Department of Defense.

About Michael Edward Walsh

Michael Edward Walsh is a research fellow for African Studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Separately, he is also president of the Islands Society and director of the Overseas Military Bases in Africa Initiative. Over the last decade, Mr. Walsh’s work has appeared in dozens of international news outlets and think tank publications. He has also received a number of awards, including the Vivian Award from the National Press Club and a Certificate of Appreciation from the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

About the Islands Society

The Islands Society is a “Top-Rated” American 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Its mission is to inspire and empower islanders to participate in foreign affairs and overseas engagements in order to affect positive change in their local communities. The nonprofit therefore develops and implements projects that are designed to help islanders realize their full potential on the world stage.

Website
Facebook
Twitter

Image Credit: Marines via Flickr CC

Dalton Kuen-da Lin (Princeton-Harvard China and the World Programs) Named 2015 Winner of Islands Society’s “Security Threats in the Pacific Essay Contest” – 11/12/2015

Essays from Fiji, New Zealand, Taiwan, and Tonga selected as finalists in essay competition for young scholars

Today, the Islands Society announced that essays by five young scholars on Asia-Pacific security have been selected as the top submissions to this year’s “Security Threats in the Pacific Essay Contest.” These essays will now be featured on the think tank’s website alongside commentary from senior thought leaders on foreign policy and insular affairs.

This summer, the Islands Society issued an open call to young scholars across the region to submit opinion pieces on a contemporary security challenge facing the region. Specifically, young scholars were asked to answer: “What is the biggest security threat facing Pacific Islanders today?”

The Islands Society is proud to present responses to this question from the following young scholars (in no particular order): Melania Baba (Fiji,) Tevita Motulalo (Tonga), Adi Litia Cakobau Nailatikau (Fiji), Dalton Kuen-da Lin (Taiwan), and Genevieve Neilson (New Zealand / United States). The selection committee is also proud to announce that the essay by Dalton Kuen-da Lin was selected as the winner of the essay competition.

Below is a brief outline of the selected essays:

All of the selected essays will appear on the official blog of the Islands Society, The Islander, later this week.

About the Islands Society

The Islands Society is an international 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Its mission is to inspire and empower islanders to participate in foreign affairs and overseas engagements in order to affect positive change in their local communities. The nonprofit develops and implements projects that are designed to help islanders realize their full potential on the world stage. These projects are currently organized around two main themes: community projects and next generation leaders. The community projects center on ten issue areas, including charity, conservation, democracy, disaster relief, education, equality, health, innovation, security, and sustainability. Meanwhile, the next generation leader projects support artists, athletes, chefs, incubators, musicians, policymakers, storytellers, and technologists. To implement these programs, the nonprofit has launched local constituent societies around the world. These include the Pacific Islands Society, Baltic Islands Society, Sea Islands Society, Arctic Islands Society, Caribbean Islands Society, and Remote Islands Society (Japan).

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Globalization: A Major Threat for Pacific Island Countries – Melania Baba

“Globalization” is a term often associated with progress and innovation. Despite its numerous perks, it has also shown itself to be the biggest and most immediate threat for Pacific Island countries. This short piece attempts to unveil some of the effects of globalization on the region.

A Connected World

A distinctive feature of globalization is “connectedness”. This is largely made possible by communications technology. Through this connectedness, we have witnessed the rise of world cultures. This in turn has meant that the cultures of the larger and more technologically advanced countries of the world engulf those of the smaller and less technologically advanced ones. In this process, the small and less technologically advanced countries lose their distinctiveness in their cultures, languages, values and identities.

The Pacific Islands has been affected by this process. It is often packaged and sold for its white sandy beaches, friendly locals and hotels offering various activities and services promising the world a memorable experience. In many Pacific Island countries, tourism is a major contributor to economic development. For example, it is major money making industry in Fiji. It provides work for locals and has a rippling effect for other local businesses. But, it has also brought many challenges to the way of life and culture of the people. Specifically, it contributes to sex tourism, commercialization of cultures, and environmental degradation – especially along its vulnerable coastlines. This is destroying the distinctiveness of the very thing that tourists come to see.

An integral part of globalization is technological advancement. In and of itself, technological advancement undermines the cooperative communal way of life. In other words, it undermines the ways in which the community traditionally sits and works together to derive their livelihood from the land and sea resources around them. In a connected world, these ways have been replaced by a dependency on processed foods and reduced activity, which has raised the level of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). For example, a recent study by the World Bank concludes that 70-75% of deaths in the Pacific are attributable in part to NCDs.

A World of Migrants

Migration is another impact of Globalization. With the advanced system of transportation and interconnectedness, emigration is made easier. In many Polynesian islands across the Pacific (e.g., Cook Islands, Niue and Samoa), the majority of their populations are living abroad. Migration has undoubtedly brought wealth to these countries. But, the second generation of these immigrants are also beginning to lose their mother tongue. Research has shown that many of the Pacific Island languages are now at risk. Language is an essential ingredient in cultural preservation. The loss of these languages would therefore undoubtedly cause the loss of many individual cultural identities across the region.

A Policy Imperative

There are certainly many advantages of Globalization. However, there has been a tendency to ignore some of its negative effects. Across the Pacific Islands region, these negative effects are now beginning to emerge with the evolving lifestyle, the health issues as well as the deterioration of culture and diminishing languages. And, these negative effects of globalization compounded the negative effects of climate change. There is therefore a need for Pacific Island countries to reassess globalization and its impact on the various cultures across the region. If the Pacific Island countries are to fully benefit from globalization, their leaders must put in place proactive programs that ensure these negative effects are addressed immediately.

Melania Baba is a graduate in Law and Political Science at the University of the South Pacific. Currently, she is a legal officer at a local nonprofit concerned with the protection of Fiji’s environment and the promotion of sustainable resource management through law. Baba is interested in international relations and climate change with particular reference to the small pacific island states in the Pacific.

Guest commentaries and responses on the Islands Society Blog represent the views of the respective authors. Alternative viewpoints are always welcomed. Please send any responses to pr@islandssociety.org. Our editors will consider any and all responses for future publication.

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Climate Change: An Existential Security Threat in the Pacific – Tevita Motulalo

As underground water tables become poisoned with salt water intrusion, agricultural fields whither, and receding shorelines are further punctured by super cyclones and crackling droughts, the Pacific Islands are subtly moving beyond the early stages of an existential crisis. Unfortunately, climate change is just the latest in the series of non-traditional security challenges besieging Pacific Island counties, their citizens, and how they relate to the world. In aggregate, these non-traditional security challenges threaten the very survival of Pacific Island countries. Not since the Assured Destruction of the Cold War has the region faced such an existential problem.

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Lack of Climate Change Finance Threatening Pacific Development – Genevieve Neilson

As storms become more frequent and intense, sea levels rise, and coral reefs are destroyed, Pacific Islanders must adapt to a changing climate or move their lives elsewhere. Pacific Islands Countries (PICs) are at the forefront of climate change impacts and in the vanguard at international climate change negotiations. Yet, they still require improved access to financing to adapt to the threats of climate change. A central problem is that the climate finance architecture is in its infancy. And, it is changing; the Green Climate Fund started its work this year, and it is unclear whether it will replace or complement existing funds. It is therefore important for PICs and international actors to learn best practices from states like Samoa, who are succeeding in accessing funding from each global climate finance mechanism.

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