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Subject: Asian Threat Assessment and Its Application to GCC - Dr. Kim Jinwoog

Date: 2015-11-08 10:45
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Asian Threat Assessment and Its Application to GCC


It is natural for GCC to make good relations with the US but they do not have to follow its strategy and tactics which are not theirs. There is a strong need for some wisdom and discussion on how much dependency and independency in military, technology and information should be fulfilled. They may use western traditional and non-traditional theoretical frameworks or practical experiences of other countries but they may have to create their own ways at any rate. That is the way how the Emirates stands out with its own specific characteristics. Small actors in the international society should cooperate together. A rabbit does not have hunting skills but it is vigilant and fast, and a skunk has a powerful smell, and a hedgehog can protect itself with sharp needles. The combination of these capabilities can create a space that small actors find a way to increase their power. This effort also provides small actors with a right to speak when they need to deal with their own immediate security threats for which great powers would not care as assumed in the theory of Real politick.

1. Introduction

The paper is the research on the Asian risk and threat assessment trends with regard to the application to the Gulf Region. Having observed ceaseless conflicts among countries in the Middle East, we may agree that it is necessary to practice new strategies and new tactics to cope with the threat and risk in the Gulf. Learning the western traditional methodology and maintaining relations with American, European Air Force, Navy and Intelligences are meaningful approach, however, it is not always mandatory that you should follow their strategies and tactics in conducting security policies. We could also create a new approach; such as ‘Islam way’ , if just taking an example to make our studies more locally reasonable and diversified. Copenhagen School is a good example for practicing in the international security area beyond the conventional security strategy. This so-called ‘Islam way’ might be constituted in a different perspective including constructivism; a new theory of international relations in certain way could play a better role than the neo-realists or neo-liberalists to solve the world affairs.

When we elaborate the national security affairs we normally use the term ‘threat’ as the assessment of the capability or intent of using the forces which are known or at least knowable. But when we view other subjects than the national security such as human security, information security, social security etc., we are also using another term ‘risk’. Risks are also defined in indirect, unintended and situated in the future. Historically wars were broken out not only because of a real risk but because of perceiving threat from other countries. It has happened in the First World War, the Second World War and even in the Korean War. We could say Israel also attack Arab countries not because of actual risk from Arab countries but because of threat perceived.

In the military perspectives, threat assessments take into account a wide range of factors. To assess capability, they analyze the quality of past performance, current trends, command and control, logistic support and the extent to which a state can create its own opportunities to attack. And intention is also established by past performance, public rhetoric and whether a state does create its own opportunities or just spontaneously reacts to events. But still it is the subjective judgment, not the actual risk. Risk is the perception of hazard, the probability and harm of it likely to be faced. It is objective perception and factual threat. If we use these terms differently in this way, then classification of these two terms would be useful. If we can clearly differentiate the factual risk from perceiving threat, we may prevent breaking war among the countries more effectively.

Threat is something relevant to feeling that can be exploited vulnerability, intentionally or accidentally and obtain, damage, or destroy an asset. It is what we are trying to protect against. But risk is a function of threats exploiting vulnerabilities to obtain damage or destroy assets. Thus, threats (actual, conceptual or inherent) may exist, but if there are no vulnerabilities then there is little or no risk. On the other hand, you may have vulnerability, but if you have no threat, then you have little or no risk. The co-relations between vulnerability, threat and risk are important in strategic thinking as Sun Zi, the ancient Chinese general and philosopher, pointed out in a simple lesson: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” Accurately assessing threats and identifying vulnerabilities is critical to understanding the risk assets. The differentiation among threats, vulnerabilities and risk is the first step for a state to be in safe. The paper will examine the general security background of Asia in the next chapter and access the Asian risk and threat trend especially oriented in East Asia. At the forth chapter it will suggest its applications to the security of the Gulf.

2. General Security Background of Asia

European countries started invasion to Asian countries early in the 15th century owing to the search for trade routes and the introduction of early modern warfare into what was then called the Far East. There has been a presence of Western European colonial empires and imperialism in Asia throughout six centuries of colonialism. The empires introduced Western concepts of nation and the multinational state. The thrust of European political power, commerce and culture in Asia gave rise to growing trade in commodities—a key development in the rise of today’s modern free market economy in the world.

Before the Industrial Revolution in the mid-to-late 19th century, demand for oriental goods such as porcelain, silk, spices and tea remained the driving force behind European imperialism, and the European stake in Asia remained confined largely to trading stations and strategic outposts necessary to protect trade. Industrialization dramatically increased European demand for Asian raw materials afterwards. Between the 1870s and the beginning of World War I in 1914, the United Kingdom, France, and the Netherlands—the established colonial powers in Asia—added to their empires vast expanses of territory in the Middle East, the Indian Subcontinent, and South East Asia. In the same period, the Empire of Japan, following the Meiji Restoration; the German Empire, following the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871; Tsarist Russia; and the United States, following the Spanish–American War in 1898, quickly emerged as new imperial powers in East Asia and in the Pacific Ocean region.

In Asia, World War I and World War II were played out as struggles among several key imperial powers—conflicts involving the European powers along with Russia and the rising American and Japanese powers. None of the colonial powers, however, possessed the resources to withstand the strains of both world wars and maintain their direct rule in Asia. Although nationalist movements throughout the colonial world led to the political independence of almost all of the Asia's remaining colonies, decolonization was intercepted by the Cold War; and South East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and East Asia remained embedded in a world economic, financial, and military system in which the great powers compete to extend their influence. The rapid post-war economic development of the East Asian Tigers, the People's Republic of China (PRC), along with the collapse of the Soviet Union, relaxed European and American influence in Asia, generating speculation today about emergence of modern China as potential superpower expected to constitute the bipolar order along with the United States.

Roughly the European powers had control of many countries of Asia by the early 20th century, such as British India, French Indochina, Spanish East Indies, and Portuguese Macau and Goa. And Imperial Japan expanded into China, Korea, Manchuria and Southeast Asia during the Second World War. After the war, many Asian countries became independent from European powers. During the Cold War, the northern parts of Asia were communist controlled with the Soviet Union and PRC, while western allies formed pacts such as CENTO and SEATO. Conflicts such as the Korean War, Vietnam War and Soviet invasion of Afghanistan were fought between communists and anti-communists. In the decades after the Second World War, a massive restructuring plan drove Japan to become the world's second-largest economy, following South Korea growth in economy and democracy. The Arab-Israeli conflict has dominated much of the recent history of the Middle East. After the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991, there were many new independent nations in Central Asia.

Today China, Japan and South Korea play important roles in world economy and politics. China today is the second largest economy of the world since 2010 and the second fastest growing military. South Korean economy is the 9th-largest in the world by nominal GDP and the 7th-largest military growing state.

3. Asian risk and Threat Assessment Trend – East Asia Oriented

After the Second World War, Most of the countries of Asian region have kept their security primarily bilateral, structured around US defense treaties with Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Philippines and Republic of China. And there was no serious attempt to create a cooperative security regime that could engage in confidence building and conflict resolution. Only ASEAN, established in 1967, did this to some extent, but ASEAN was a sub-regional (initially only five members) and multi-purpose grouping, whose goals in¬cluded economic, social, and political security. Multi¬lateral defense cooperation did not enter into ASEAN’s agenda during the Cold War period.

The Asian region now is becoming increasingly dependent on China for its economic prosperity while, at the same time, China's growing military power causes apprehension, in part due to the uncertainty of how China will choose to use its power in the region in the decades ahead. Especially in nations that rely on the United States to guarantee their security –South Korea and Japan– there is concern that they might be forced to choose a side in the event of a military confrontation between the United States and China. Even if there is no armed conflict, many specialists say that their governments will be faced with a situation in which China would use its economic power as political leverage to pursue China's national interests, possibly in direct opposition to the interests of the United States and its allies.

In Beijing, in turn, security policy makers grapple with a question of how to shape China's relations with the region to most effectively pursue China's interests. China is dependent on the region for its continued economic growth. Thus, an uninterrupted flow of goods, services and technology is as important for China as it is for its neighbors. Chinese policy makers are well aware that China's rise causes jitters and that China's more assertive behavior in its near waters over the past few years has put stress on its relations with its neighbors. This concern has been reflected in its white paper published in 2011. China finds supports for its assertive policies from domestic and international audience by retracing through its own history of ‘century of humiliation’. China's rise is not the only evolving factor in the security dynamics of Asia. Relations between South Korea and Japan are also in a state of flux, complicating efforts by the United States to rebalance toward Asia to counterbalance China's growing power. North Korea's continued efforts to develop its nuclear weapons also constitute an ongoing security concern in East Asia, which impacts on intra-regional relations.

▶ China

China’s policy towards its periphery seems paradoxical to many foreign observers. President Xi Jinping has attached top priority to maintaining good relations with China’s neighbors, elevating the importance of China’s periphery above its ties with the United States. At the same time, Xi stubbornly insists that China makes no concession in disputes with its neighbors over territorial sovereignty, and demands that Chinese maritime rights and interests are protected at all costs. Xi considers these twin objectives as mutually reinforcing and that he has developed a strategy to achieve them. In exchange for providing developmental benefits to its neighbors through trade, investment, infrastructure and energy, China expects that they will accommodate Chinese ‘core interests’, including eventually conceding to Beijing on territorial disputes in the East and South China seas in the late 2000s. Having concluded that Deng Xiaoping’s policy of keeping a low profile (taoguang yanghui) no longer serves Chinese interests, Xi is advocating an active foreign policy that seeks to shape China’s strategic environment so it becomes more favorable to the rejuvenation of the great Chinese nation – an aim that Xi has termed the ‘China dream’.

▶ Japan

Since Shinzo Abe took office as prime minister for the second time in 2012, Japan’s regional diplomacy has been at perhaps its most active and diverse in the country’s post-war history. Within the first year of his new premiership, he became the first Japanese prime minister to visit all state members of ASEAN. Abe has, at the same time, developed Tokyo’s strategic relationships with two other major regional powers, India and Australia. At the heart of this diplomatic effort has been an attempt to create a supporting network against the rising China. Analyzing that its neighbor is not only becoming a regional hegemony but also a power that at times appears to use assertive policies and hard power to coerce its rivals, Japan is seeking to develop a community of like-minded states throughout Asia that share such apprehensions as represented in Abe’s term of ‘Asia's Democratic Security Diamond’. The continuing ‘normalization’ of Japan’s defense policy that is in tandem with its more activist foreign policy is allowing Tokyo to consider defense and dual-use exports to countries such as Australia, India, the Philippines and Vietnam.

▶ South Korea

In recent years, South Korea has emerged as a regional power not only in terms of playing a bigger role in Asia-Pacific affairs, but also able to take on broader international responsibilities. In 2010, it became the first country outside the G8 to host the inaugural G20 meeting. Two years later, it hosted the Nuclear Security Summit, with over 50 global leaders participating. The country’s economy, focused on high-technology and manufactured exports, is ranked the world’s twelfth largest. The Republic of Korea’s economic success, however, has been accompanied by the same existential dilemma that has confronted it since its national foundation in 1948 – the need to deter North Korean aggression. In response, Korea is pursuing a role in the regional power balance that would bolster its deterrent posture.

For decades, following the cessation of hostilities across the 38th Parallel in 1953, Seoul’s attempt to strengthen its deterrent posture has rested on its military-alliance with the United States. The posture has at times come under pressure. Since 2006, North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests and nine ballistic-missile tests, and in 2010 the South Korean naval frigate Cheonan was sunk and Yeongpyeong Island shelled by North Korea. Nevertheless, an uneasy peace continues, with North Korea currently restricting itself to low-level hostilities in the form of cyber-attacks and, occasionally, more audacious but still contained acts of aggression. In this strategic context, South Korea’s relations with other important regional states – such as China and Japan – as well as the US, other Asia-Pacific countries and the wider community have developed in directions commensurating with the country’s evolving regional and international status, but that have not necessarily been widely analyzed.

Jungmin Lee, further, argues that Asia is in “a department store of security threats” that mainly includes four main sources of threat: the china rising and arms race, accumulating nuclear warheads North Korea and Pakistan, China’s threatening transformation in its naval power, and lastly cyber threats. He succinctly concludes that the US-South Korea alliance is the only solution that would deal with these multidimensional threats. His perspective represents the main stream of South Korean conservative opinion group and its security threat assessment, however, it is necessary to discuss concerns beyond the US-South Korea alliance. The US has been promoting more equal relations in its alliance, for example with Japan, in terms of economy and defense. However, what Japan contributed to the international community by exploiting its economic power does not give guarantee to Japan to become influential state anymore. In this context it is reasonable that Japan now more rely on its military capability and logistics. It has been 70 years after the end of the WWII that Japan did not deploy its forces overseas until recently it enacted a new security law. It is viewed that the US and Japan would be the strongest alliance in the world by ten years, which will be also the strongest threat to China that is strengthening its power to prepare for that. The future-oriented national security policy of South Korea, therefore, should be considered in a way that it is not able to be involved the hegemony conflict, and that re-direct the US-South Korea relations.

4. Applications and Suggestions for Security of the Gulf

▶ Dependency in Weapon System

Japan and South Korea has imported most of the weapons from US. And they have followed US guidance to export their products to other countries. In the Gulf, European countries offer a wide range of weapons and technology, some in areas where the US does not have systems as well suited to GCC needs, and the GCC can also buy from Russia and China. That is the way how GCC could impede the dependence on one country. If a state depends on one partner too much, it is not free to choose its own way of defense strategically and technically. The highest priority for Gulf security is that the GCC states work together in ways that make the leaders of the GCC states decide in their own interests while well informed about local contexts. Independent maintenance and indigenization of weapon system with high interoperability are the factors for military development.

Each country has its own trajectory of military development according to its own history of economic and social development. While the US considers global factors when it constitutes military transformation, small and middle powers do not enjoy rooms to plan global engagement as wide as big powers. Rather, those small states consider their immediate threats prior to any further consideration. It could be even dangerous to apply others’ development model because this behavior will increase dependency in policy making. The immediate threats that small countries observe are not that of the US nor China, therefore, South Korea and UAE could pursue a similar direction of balancing between learning from great powers and practicing indigenous policies.

South Korea and Japan have followed the US policy of weapon development. For example, South Korea has long been limited to extend the range of its missile system, and it was only in 2012 that the missile range was extended from 300km to 800km. It has to accept the range limit posed by the US policy to keep the league and receive the advanced military technology. The most Gulf states have much more modern and capable surface-to-air missiles – some with limited ballistic missile defense capabilities and national sensor and battle management systems. If they choose to do so, the GCC states have the resources to create fully integrated air and missile defense systems that would remain far more sophisticated and to develop an interoperable and integrated air capabilities that would preserve a decisive edge over Iran in air-to-air, Air Land warfare, and sea air warfare and surveillance. However if importing the weapons without learning about the source of technology, the degree of dependence would be deepened and military expenditure will be seriously growing according to incessant necessity of upgrading the weapon systems.

▶ Priority of forces

South Korea has focused on developing the ground forces as US military supported its Air Force and Naval power in the region. In terms of ground forces, The GCC has an even larger lead in overall armored vehicle strength, and its inferiority in total artillery strength is offset by the fact that most of Iran’s inventory is towed artillery purchased for relatively static warfare in the Iran-Iraq War, and the GCC states have parity in self-propelled, maneuver weapons. Iran not only faces major barriers in using its ground forces, but also it is sharply inferior in modern tank strength. Regarding the decision whether GCC would invest in Air Force, Navy and intelligence, South Korean experience would be applicable. Meanwhile, ground threat is relatively limited hazard for only homeland security.

South Korea has been threatened from North Korean nuclear program. North Korean nuclear threat is simply considered to be a measure to get superior position over the peace talk rather than a real, substantial threat. Long range missile development in North Korea is also not targeting at South Korea in reality but against the US and Japan. It is clear that most of Iran’s current missile forces have ranges suitable to strike targets in the Gulf, and that its efforts to strengthen such forces are largely directed toward enhancing its security presence in the Gulf region. Meanwhile, it cannot be denied that it has a nuclear program, and has described its missile programs largely as threats to Israel. Sometimes tactics of super power can be serious strategies of small powers that exterminate them. But sometimes strategies of super power may be the measure of tactics of small countries. So they have to differentiate and decide their own strategy and their own tactics.

▶ Iraqi affairs

No country in East Asia wants North Korea to collapse. Respectively in different need, China, Japan and South Korea want North Korea to grow peacefully with stable development. For China, North Korea is a traditional lips and teeth relation. If North Korea would be absorbed to South Korea, like East Germany, then two million Korean ethnic people in China would be affected and possibly ignited for separatist movements. For Japan, North Korean absorption to South Korea could make a strong competitor against it. The unification in the Korean peninsula, for South Korea, means huge expenditure in its budget.

Regardless of what the GCC states think of the US invasion of Iraq, they will face a massive increase in their future threat level if Iraq does not remain unified, and if the US fails to help Iraq to achieve certain level of security and stability, and further, if Iraq does not move forward in political accommodation and development. There are key steps the GCC states could take to enhance their security and help the Iraqi people: help Iraq to build up its own forces, actively support the efforts of political accommodation from within Iraq, and seek foreign aid.

▶ Energy affairs and terrorism

Energy is the key source of revenue to the Gulf states, and the driving force behind the US and other countries’ interests in the region. The GCC states face special security problems because of the location and nature of their critical energy infrastructure. This increases their vulnerability towards other state’s threats, asymmetric warfare, terrorists and states using non-state actors as proxies. It is also critical that GCC states recognize that if they do not create effective deterrent and defense capabilities, then other states will come under extreme pressure to intervene to protect their energy supplies.

Korea has also involved in GCC countries in regards to energy resources on which Korea relies on substantially. In the long term, it might be advisable that the ownership of Gulf’s crude, product, LNG, related facilities, cargo ships are open to many other countries, private and multinational companies. Then they would obtain stronger insurances for security and safety and protect the risk and threat for their infrastructure more effectively.

Along with non-traditional security issues, the threat of terrorism remains a major problem, and one that requires steady improvements in cooperation within the GCC, and with other states. It also requires a steady improvement between military, paramilitary, law enforcement, and intelligence forces. In East Asia, the threat of terrorism is not highly likely because social security system has been benefited by relatively homogenous culture while various religions coexist. In the long term, Arab society has to become open society in cultural and religious background. In Korea, even though we have been threatened from North Korea, we are getting safer than before by developing remote monitoring system every point of streets and places. It is critical that the open society is established firstly for various religions, and secondly, set up the social citizen’s network security system, and further, monitoring facilities system.

▶ Military Leadership of GCC

The political or military leaders in Asian countries such as China, Japan and South Korea have strengthened their strong leadership in the internal and external security. In the Gulf there is relatively lack of effective leadership in the security affairs. The key problem is not the risk from a dominant foreign enemy, but rather that the Gulf states will continue to bicker and fail to develop a proper degree of integration, interoperability, and effectiveness in performing key military missions. ASEAN, for example, has been one of successful case of groups of small actors that exercises its position with regard to security affairs in South East Asian countries. Meanwhile, the trilateral East Asia Summit among China, Japan and South Korea has not developed exemplary due to historical and territorial conflicts, and further, hegemonic endeavors. Japan and South Korea are not going very well but US-Japan league and US-South Korea league managed the cooperation for deterring the risk including North Korean threat. If the GCC states develop integrated battle management and command and control, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, and mission-oriented interoperable or joint standing forces in critical areas like maritime security, mine warfare, and air and missile defense, it could create effective local deterrent and defense capabilities with US encouragement.

5. Conclusion

The paper has studied security dynamics and the risk in East Asia and suggested its application to Gulf region. Presenters ahead may have mainly focused on theoretical approach and this paper has focused on practical experiences. Asia has been dominated by European countries for a long time of its history and now some of them are cooperating with the US while others sometimes competing with it. Whether they cooperating or competing, no country can abandon relationship with the US for their economic and security purposes.

So it is just natural for GCC to make good relations with the US but they do not have to follow strategy and tactics which are not theirs. So there is a strong need for some wisdom and discussion on how much dependency and independency in military, technology and information should be fulfilled. They may use western traditional and non-traditional theoretical frameworks or practical experiences of other countries but they may have to create their own ways at any rate.

That is the way how the Emirates stands out with its own specific characteristics. In that context, the workshop would be a good chance to shape a specific framework for identifying, assessing and countering potential threats to the Emirates. East Asian examples will be definitely useful to create an application in the Emirates version.

Last but not least, small actors in the international society should cooperate. A rabbit does not have hunting skills but it is vigilant and fast, and a skunk has a powerful smell, and a hedgehog can protect itself with sharp needles. The combination of these capabilities can create a space that small actors find a way to increase their power. This effort also provides small actors with a right to speak when they need to deal with their own immediate security threats for which great powers would not care as assumed in the theory of Realpolitik.

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