Thursday, December 7, 2017

Conn Hallinan — Rolling Snake Eyes in the Indo-Pacific

With the world focused on the scary possibility of war on the Korean Peninsula, not many people paid a whole lot of attention to a series of naval exercises this past July in the Malacca Strait, a 550-mile long passage between Sumatra and Malaysia through which pass over 50,000 ships a year. With President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un exchanging threats and insults, why would the media bother with something innocuously labeled “Malabar 17”?
They should have.
Malabar 17 brought together the U.S., Japanese, and Indian navies to practice shutting down a waterway through which 80 percent of China’s energy supplies travel and to war game closing off the Indian Ocean to Chinese submarines. If Korea keeps you up at night, try imagining the outcome of choking off fuel for the world’s second largest economy.While Korea certainly represents the most acute crisis in Asia, the diplomatic maneuvers behind Malabar 17 may be more dangerous in the long run. The exercise elevates the possibility of a confrontation between China, the U.S. and India, but also between India and Pakistan, two nuclear-armed countries that have fought three wars in the past 70 years.
It's worth remembering on Pearl Harbor Day commemorating the Japanese "sneak attack" on December 7, 1941 that the provocation was the oil embargo that the US had imposed on Japan. Many believe that the embargo was imposed as a move to draw Japan into war and also provide a rationale for the US joining the war in Europe, for which there was tepid public support.

Rolling Snake Eyes in the Indo-Pacific
Conn Hallinan

No comments: