Asia is in the “early phases of an arms race,” with many nations increasing their military forces as dangerous disputes on land and sea pose potential flashpoints, Australian Ambassador Kim Beazley warns.
Mr. Beazley, speaking this week at the University of Virginia’s Center for International Studies, praised the Obama administration for preparing for future conflicts with a new Asia strategy. The United States and Australia agreed in November to deploy 2,500 U.S. Marines to a military base in northern Australia.
He called the administration’s so-called “pivot” to Asia “one of the most exciting developments from the Australian point of view and one of the most exciting in American foreign policy,” the UVa Today newspaper reported.
Mr. Beazley said Australia has long advocated a U.S. strategic swing toward Asia, adding that Washington is “catching up on a major shift in global geopolitics” where many countries are enjoying strong economic growth that is funding their military forces, especially China’s.
“It’s India rising. It’s Vietnam rising. It’s South Korea rising and Japan still holding its own,” he said.
Mr. Beazley noted the ongoing tensions in the South China Sea, where Beijing is claiming vast expanses of ocean as its territorial waters and challenging claims by other nations.
“Every single country in Southeast Asia has a maritime dispute with its neighbor,” he said.
Mr. Beazley added that many countries also have land border conflicts. Since 2008, dozens of soldiers have been killed in a dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over an ancient Buddhist temple.
He also noted that region is also key to the world economy.
“Fifty percent of global trade passes through the south East Asian archipelago,” he said, calling the area “vital to the happiness and prosperity of the globe.”
‘PLEASE, DON’T GO’
British Ambassador Peter Westmacott appealed to Scots who might be considering voting for independence, as he addressed a gathering of Scottish-Americans in Washington this week.
“Please, don’t go,” he said, noting that he is proud to be the diplomatic representative of English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish subjects of the United Kingdom of Great Britain.
The governing Scottish National Party is planning a referendum on Scotland’s independence in 2014.
Mr. Westmacott spoke at the annual National Tartan Day reception, sponsored by the National Capital Tartan Day Committee to honor the House and Senate Scottish caucuses.