Voice

Japan's ASEAN bid

Several weeks ago, Prashanth Parameswaran described here the attention that the government of Shinzo Abe has been lavishing on members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Earlier this week, another apparent step in that process took place in Tokyo when Japan's vice defence minister, Akinori Eto, met with ASEAN representatives to discuss regional security isues. Agence France Presse has the story:

The meeting is the first high-ranking defence dialogue of its kind since hawkish Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office late December following a landslide victory in general elections.

"Our country changed governments late last year," Eto said. "Under the new regime, we want to reinforce cooperation in security and defence with ASEAN countries and contribute to peace in the region," he added.

Ahead of the meeting, the ASEAN participants met Abe late Tuesday and voiced their high expectations from Japan "in dealing with various security issues of the Asia-Pacific region," the defence ministry said in a statement.

Japan, along with several members of ASEAN have locked horns with China over separate territorial disputes.

The Multilateralist

Is Fareed Zakaria too rosy on China?

Fareed Zakaria believes that China has begun to shift its North Korea policy. Obama administration officials tell Zakaria that Beijing is increasingly exasperated with the North's behavior. One key piece of evidence that he cites is less than convincing however: China's recent Security Council vote for new sanctions. Here's how Zakaria describes it:

The most important new development, however, is China’s attitude change. In a remarkable shift, China — which sustains its neighbor North Korea economically — helped draft and then voted last week for U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang.

Zakaria and the administration officials he's talking to could be right, but China's vote for UN sanctions certainly doesn't make the case. In October 2006, Beijing backed Resolution 1718 imposing sanctions on the regime. At that meeting, China's UN ambassador chastised North Korea for acting "flagrantly" and "supported the Security Council for making [a] firm and appropriate response." Then, in June 2009, China voted for Resolution 1874, which expanded existing sanctions. At the time, China's representative chastised the North for its "disregard of the common objection of the international community." If China's support of the latest round of sanctions is "the most important new development" in the relationship between Beijing and Pyongyang, then that relationship may not be changing much at all.