Regional Overview: A Frustating Start to 2015 for the US
by Ralph A. Cossa and Brad Glosserman
Beijing’s recent economic initiatives with neighboring countries focus on the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Chinese Silk Road Fund.
2015 opened with high-level exchanges in preparation for the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, scheduled for early summer, and Xi Jinping’s state visit in September. The South China Sea remained a source of friction as evidence mounted that China is building military outposts on reefs in the Spratly Islands.
In the early months of 2015 Tokyo has stepped up its engagement with Southeast Asia. Increasingly concerned with tensions in the South China Sea and the potential for their spillover, Japan has worked with Vietnam and the Philippines to strengthen coast guard and naval capacity.
Given the drift and depths to which the US-India relationship has succumbed throughout much of 2013 and the early part of 2014, visits by the two heads of government in the span of a few months constituted something of a return to the same orbit, symbolized by the fact that the two countries’ Mars orbiters (Mangalyaan and Maven) had entered the planet’s orbit withi
China-Russia relations were quite uneventful in the first four months of 2015. Instead, Moscow and Beijing seemed on divergent paths as the former continued to be plagued by geopolitics (Ukraine, Iran, etc.), while the latter was busy with geoeconomics (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Belt and Road Initiative, etc.).
At the end of 2014, there were both stern warnings but also cautious optimism for what 2015 held in store for Japan and South Korea in anticipation of the 50th anniversary in June of the restoration of diplomatic relations and the upcoming 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.
Despite ongoing discussions of history and present-day issues related to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, there was a general sense in both Tokyo and Beijing that relations were slowly moving in the right direction. Meetings took place between senior diplomats and political leaders.