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Human Trafficking Problem in North Macedonia

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North Macedonia has been widely known as an international transit for human trafficking. However during the coronavirus pandemic, the problem has been rising significantly. In August 2020 alone, authorities have discovered 322 illegal migrants throughout North Macedonia in several different operations. On 9 August, authorities discovered 94 migrants which consisted of Syrian, Iraqi, Afghani, and Pakistani nationals inside a truck. The migrants were discovered when a police patrol stopped the truck near the town of Radovish, 110 kilometers from the capital city of Skopje. However, the truck driver managed to flee from the scene. On 14 August, authorities discovered 148 migrants inside trucks from two different operations and arrested two people. The first operation was conducted in the town of Demir Kapija which the authorities found 103 migrants, including 29 children. The majority of the migrants were from Pakistan, which consisted of 81 people. Ten migrants were from Afghanistan, 8 from India, 2 from Egypt, and 1 each from Iran and Syria. The second operation was conducted in the village of Vaksince with another 45 migrants from Syria, Bangladesh, Somalia, Pakistan, and Palestine being discovered inside an abandoned truck. During this operation, the truck driver again managed to flee the scene. On 17 August, authorities discovered 80 migrants inside a lorry during an inspection on the road between Negorino and Gradsko, centre of North Macedonia. The driver of the lorry initially managed to escape but was quickly captured and arrested and is charged with human trafficking. All of the migrants were Pakistani nationals except one individual from Eritrea. The authorities stated that all of these discoveries on 9, 14, and 17 August have one similarity in regards to their embarkment location which was from Greece. The migrants have since been detained and will be transferred to a migrant shelter in the southern border town of Gevgelija, pending deportation to Greece. Authorities have also stated that while the Greek border with North Macedonia was closed earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, trafficking networks have remained active, ferrying migrants who make their way from Turkey into Greece and then attempt to head north, through North Macedonia to more prosperous countries in the European Union.

As this problem has existed in North Macedonia, the government was expected to conduct vigorous measures to counter it. However, it has been reported by several investigations that the government’s efforts in combating human trafficking was still below the standard set by the international community. North Macedonian authorities have been reported for not having adequate funding and equipment to conduct proactive investigations in regards to preventing and countering human trafficking in North Macedonia. The Organized Crime and Corruption Prosecution Office (OCCPO) also lacked sufficient resources, including staff, to handle all cases under their jurisdiction. Other than that, corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained an obstacle to conduct an effective and efficient countermeasure. For instance, although several cases have pointed to the involvement of corruption within the government which boosts the human trafficking practice, the government has not prosecuted any officials for complicity specifically pertaining to trafficking in the last 3 years. Ironically, the last 3 years was the period in which human trafficking in North Macedonia reached its peak. Moreover, instead of tightening the law, the government decided to reduce the minimum sentence for any complicit involved in human trafficking from 8 years to 5 years imprisonment.

In order to solve this problem, there is no other way for the government other than to strengthen its measure regarding its approach towards the issue of human trafficking. More cooperation with nations such as Turkey and Greece, which are also known as international transit points for human trafficking, is considered to be imperative. Investigation and prosecution must also be conducted in a more vigorous manner. Strengthening sentences for the complicit should be seriously taken into consideration as a step forward to fight this issue. Allocating sufficient resources to the authorities and prosecutors should also be conducted, while at the same time increasing the funding for anti-trafficking operation. Human trafficking should be taken seriously, as it is a criminal offence which mimics and supports one of the cruellest practices ever taken in the history of mankind, which is slavery. The betterment of humanity will always start by acknowledging the mistake of the past and make a strenuous effort on making it up.

Xi Jinping’s Last Temptation

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It is arguable that China’s exponential growth over the last three decades has few, if any historical parallels. From being a developing third-rate economy to achieving the second largest global economy – in the process lifting millions of its citizens out of poverty with stratospheric GDP expansions. From a manufacturing led economy to a high-tech one; from coal fired plants, to leaders in renewables; and making a stand in industries of the 21st century such as artificial intelligence. China is now also undoubtedly a global heavy weight in military terms. It is unquestionable, China has achieved in a short space of time, what many nations can only dream.

China’s rise and expansion owes a lot to a period in its history it probably considers as denigrating, humiliating, and loss of its national dignity. Its leaders vowed never again. From Mao Zedong to Deng Xiaoping and current Premier Xi Jinping – the battle cry has been to build a prosperous and powerful country worthy of international respect and recognition.

The paradoxical challenge for President Xi Jinping is how he manages China’s Jekyll and Hyde image on the world stage. In other words, China’s successful ascendency and aspirational expansionism, potentially leaves it needing to grapple with challenges of a domestic and geo-political nature. China has had to fend off accusations of dumping excess products like steel on the world markets; frowned at for the interlocking relationship between the state and its companies. Its increasing muscular activities in the disputed parts South and East China sea; repression of the Uighurs in Xinjiang; the tough new security law for Hong Kong; to the gordian knot – that is Taiwan, and perhaps the most sensitive issue for the Chinese ruling elite: The One China Policy.

Every rose has its thorn. With these issues simmering, can China manage to play offense and defence with the requisite dexterity, and in a manner that preserves its swashbuckling progress?

In early September, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi travelled to Europe for a five-country stop – primarily to iron-out what would appear to be wrinkles in the EU-China relationship. This visit came against the backdrop of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Europe in which he called for an alliance of western democracies as a counterweight to China.

Thorsten Benner, director of Global Public Institute in Berlin claims Wang Yi’s visit “didn’t achieve minimum goals”. And why would he think so? because “he didn’t have anything substantial to offer that Europeans care about, like concessions on market access, and just reiterated tired and worn boilerplate clichés on Europe and China working together on multilateralism that hardly anyone falls for anymore.”

If Wang Yi flew into headwinds in Europe, there is no love lost in Sino-US relations, particularly in the last couple of years of the Trump Presidency. The two nations have been involved in a mutually damaging trade war, closure of diplomatic consulates, technology spates, and have traded nasty counter accusations over the lack of transparency in the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

How China conducts its rear-guard action at this juncture matters more than ever. The West is laser focussed on China’s Achilles heel such as its human rights record particularly concerning the Uighurs in Xinjiang, the draconian security law in Hong Kong, and its sabre rattling over any attempts by Taiwan towards declaration of independence. These issues are sensitive to China, or sets-off its red flag on the One China Policy.

China is sensitive about its history under the yoke of imperialism. It demands respect, and it bristles at any form of interference in its sphere of assumed sovereignty, or any hectoring by foreign powers. As Hu Xijin of the Global Times asserts “China must be a country that dares to fight. And this should be based on both strength and morality,” he wrote. “We have the power in our hands, we are reasonable, and we stand up to guard our bottom line without fear. In this way, whether China is engaged in a war or not, it will accumulate the respect of the world.”

The salient question observers of the West and China are asking is if China is not risking a recurrence of its past traumas it so desperately wants to overcome, by cracking down hard on dissent in Hong Kong, threatening to invade Taiwan, and sounding bellicose in fending off criticisms about it from the West. Is all this hostile attention not unwanted?

The Trump administration’s recent hefty sale of military hardware to Taiwan, China’s repeated combat drills in the Taiwan strait and its preparations to launch a third Aircraft carrier portends a dangerous dispensation. Once again, China’s soft spot might be on the home front, and Taiwan could well be a trigger.

Will Xi Jinping be able to resist the temptation to open a new chapter where China fought off a foreign adversary from its domain, or avoid the potential trap, and concentrate on continuing to build a powerful nation? China’s further rise will probably be contingent on the formula he adopts.








Cabo Delgado’s insurgency: SADC’s moment to shine?

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Cabo Delgado, Mozambique’s northernmost province has been besieged by what was a slow-growing Islamist insurgency since October 2017. In the last nine months, the conflict has evolved from inconsistent largely opportunistic attacks with limited capacity that lacked sophistication, to a noticeable upscale in the frequency of attacks, capacity and sophistication. Approximately 1,495 people have been killed since 2017 and around 250,000 people have been internally displaced. This underpins the situation in Cabo Delgado as a growing security and humanitarian crisis, one that forced President Filipe Nyusi to shift from actively denying that there was a growing insurgency, to reluctantly acknowledging the conflict in May 2020 after soldiers were killed during heavy fighting with the insurgents. The growing momentum of the insurgency is increasing the likelihood of regional overspill, and without regional military support, substantial financial commitments, a coherent counter-terrorism strategy and meaningful structural reform of the Mozambican forces the situation within the next 6 months is likely to escalate.

The group responsible for this campaign of terror is Ahlu Sunna Wa-Jamma (ASWJ). They have also been referred to by several other names including Al-Shabaab, although there are no formal links with the Somalian regional terror group of the same name. Little is known about the shadowy group, except that they have links to the Islamic State (IS) group and have over the last nine months become more emboldened. Their March 2020 pre-dawn attacks on the towns of Mocimboa da Praia and Quissanga signalled a notable shift in tactics and illustrated a growing confidence with the display of more sophisticated capabilities, after they occupied Mocimboa da Praia for a day. This attack was notable because it was the first time the group hoisted its flag, which signalled formal links to Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCAP). It also made known its ambitions for Sharia Law in Mozambique via a video they filmed during the attack. There have been a number of further attacks that IS has taken credit for, despite this, the degree of affiliation these two groups have with each other remains contested. The scale and scope of ASWJ’s overall aims remain ambiguous, although their repeated attacks in the area, and most recently the capture of the strategic port town of Mocimboa da Praia after over five days of intense fighting with government forces on 12 August, provides a glimpse into the group’s near-term goals. The strategic targeting of Mocimboa da Praia suggests the group is currently focused on consolidating its coastal base instead of expanding the reach of its geographical presence. This latest attack by the insurgents underscores their increased capabilities and operational sophistication and indicates the group has developed adequate supply lines and manpower to sustain operations for an extended period.

Although ASWJ have demonstrated increased capacity and capability that poses a credible threat, the escalation of events should also take into account that since the Covid-19 pandemic took root across sub-Saharan Africa, extremist groups have been leveraging the Covid-19 crisis as an opportunity to intensify attacks and increase civilian support. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) commander Stephen Townsend warned in April 2020 that “al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab and ISIS have announced that they see this crisis as an opportunity to further their terrorist agenda.” The exploitation of Covid-19 by extremists groups in sub-Saharan Africa is of particular importance in the Mozambican context, because it reinforces the reality that although the majority of the physical conflict is currently isolated to Cabo Delgado, the problem itself has regional implications and will require a regional response, most likely from the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

The dispensation of regional assistance from SADC, sooner rather than later, is important for a number of reasons. The insurgency as it stands bears the hallmarks of the initially unchecked growth of similar terror groups in sub-Saharan Africa like Boko Haram, where the window of opportunity to contain the group in its infancy  was initially missed due to a lack of a coherent counter-terror strategy, adequate funding of military forces and a coordinated regional approach. Although the evolution of any terror group will bear its own unique markers due to a variety of factors that fuel the conflict, the similarities with the case of Nigeria’s army in the initial stages of fighting the Boko Haram insurgency and Mozambique’s current predicament cannot be ignored by the Mozambican leadership or SADC. There are lessons to be learned from the Nigerian, Mali and Sahel region experiences, where extremists groups were allowed to develop, due to similar issues facing Mozambique.

So far, in order to stave off the advancing insurgency, the Mozambican government has sought help from private military contractors (PMC) such as the Russian Wagner Group and more recently South African based, Dyck Advisory Group (DAG). The utilisation of PMCs  may provide immediate combat support to an escalating situation, however based on the most recent capture of the port of Mocimboa da Praia, this quick remedy is fast becoming little more than an added expense, with a low prospect of remaining a sustainable solution in the face of an increasingly aggressive  and agile insurgency that could soon eclipse the capabilities of Mozambique’s defence forces.

The signing of a Liquid Natural Gas Project with Exxon Mobil and Total, worth an estimated US$50 billion also makes the Afungi Peninsula, which is located just South of Mocimboa da Praia, an increasingly likely target for attacks. This stands to potentially jeopardize the LNG project, because opportunistic attacks on operators, such as the killing of eight workers of a private construction company this June, will likely increase in frequency over the next six months. Further to this, disruptions to supply lines are likely continue as ASWJ targets key infrastructure installations across Cabo Delgado. The fact that part of the signed LNG project deal includes Total providing logistical support to a newly established joint task force to guarantee the protection of its planned onshore liquified natural gas project, strongly indicates that whatever counter-insurgency efforts the Mozambican government had put in, has not been enough and will almost likely require regional support.

For SADC the insurgency in Mozambique is an opportunity for southern African countries to test the effectiveness of their regional strategies against terrorism. Furthermore, under the Chairmanship of Mozambique, SADC has a real chance at putting into practise its August 2020 commitment to support Mozambique in addressing terrorism and violent attacks. The SADC principle of non-interference in the affairs of the states may have presented an issue for previous Chairs of SADC, especially because the only support Mozambique had requested from its neighbours was better border control, in its reluctance to request regional assistance. However, what is increasingly more pertinent is the principle of collective security under which President Nyusi’s chairmanship SADC has the opportunity for a better-coordinated regional response to the Cabo Delgado crisis

SADC, like a number multinational organisation, has sometimes been in the past viewed as an institution that is all bark and no bite due to the competing interplay between the principles of collective security and non-interference. Making a success out of the Cabo Delgado crisis is another opportunity to highlight a positive gain in the area of counterterrorism for Mozambique and the region. More so, because the Covid-19 pandemic puts limitation the amount of international military assistance that could be offered, therefore the Cabo Delgado crisis could be SADC’s moment to shine in the area of regional responses for counterterrorism.

The Belarus Crisis and its Implications for Eastern European Security and Businesses

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The recent upheaval in Belarus following the presidential election and its aftermath has gained international attention. On the morning of August 10, Belarus’ electoral commission reported that Lukashenko won 80.3 percent of the vote. Later that night, heavily armed security forces deployed onto the streets of Minsk, using rubber bullets and tear gas, and arresting people voicing their suspicions of electoral fraud. Workers also participated in the protests and a strike was initiated at Belaruskali, a huge potash factory in Soligorsk. However, they were pressured into ending it by agents of Belarus’ State Security Committee and the strike’s organiser was handed a jail sentence. Consequently, organisers of other strikes fled the country. On August 16, the biggest mass protests in the country’s history occurred when over 200 thousand people took to the streets in Minsk to protest Lukashenko’s regime and the election results. The number of people participating in protests throughout August makes the situation unique for Belarus: for the first time, its authorities have experienced opposition from the majority of citizens, not only a minority.

On August 21, Amnesty International said that the human rights crisis in the country “caused by the vicious crackdown on peaceful protesters requires businesses, both foreign and national, to exercise particular diligence when operating in the country and upholding their responsibility to respect human rights.” Businesses have the responsibility under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to respect human rights wherever they operate in the world, and to take pro-active steps to make sure that they neither cause or contribute to human rights violations within their global operations and respond when violations do occur. Amnesty International warned businesses that authorities in Belarus may place demands on them that would lead to human rights violations, and that if this occurs, businesses must make their opposition known to the government and to the public, in addition to pursuing legal options to challenge it.

For instance, it has been alleged that the near-total internet shutdown on August 9-11 throughout Belarus was the result of instructions made by authorities to internet providers. On the morning of August 9, when the polls opened, multiple internet providers in the country lost routing. Journalists present in Belarus confirmed that there were significant disruptions to WIFI, LAN and mobile data networks. Twenty-four hours later, internet users still found it difficult to get online. Belarus’ largest telecom providers, A1; Life; and MTS, apologised and said the reasons for the outages were outside their control. Maksimas Milta, Head of the Communication and Development Unit at European Humanities University, told CyberNews that YouTube and Messenger were the first to stop working. Then, Goals, an election platform designed to register votes and report possible violations in constituencies, and Zubr, a map for reporting electoral law violations in real-time via a Telegram bot, were blocked. “So first the authorities blocked these platforms so that people could not observe news about possible violations in real-time,” said Milta. Later in the afternoon, most of the media outlets became unavailable as the whole mobile internet shut down. Independent media such as Free Radio Europe became inaccessible. Belarus’ two largest independent news platforms, Naviny and Tut., both became inaccessible following the closure of the polls.

The fact that these specific websites became inaccessible raised suspicions. Klimarev, executive director at the Internet Protection Society, told CyberNews that once “they shut down the internet, it was clear they are hiding something. To put it mildly, the elections were not transparent.” He explained further that they “foresaw this would happen. Shutdowns are not rare in the world. We just didn’t know how it would be done in Belarus.” He noted that they did not succeed as some information was still getting through. However, businesses were still hurt as the “ATMs, various services, Github and Google Docs, Slack, and other online services that are vital to business operators were down… If that lasts for a short period, it’s ok, but if it goes on for a week, the consequences for the business will be immense.” Milta said he was sure that if protests continue the disruption of the internet will too. On August 10, over 20 NGOs and human rights defenders voiced their concern about the internet shutdown in an open letter. It said: “During the whole day of 9 August 2020 Internet access in Belarus was wholly or partly limited. Blockings were either total or concerned specific Internet services, web sites, social networks, messaging services, whether local or global. It is alleged that the Belarusian authorities decided to block data transfer protocols which led to the disruption of connectivity of the Belarusian networks. All foreign traffic was directed through one channel only in an attempt to allow for deep-packet inspection making VPN services ineffective.”

Meanwhile general director of Beltelekom, Shaybakov, suggested that the internet difficulties resulted from the large volumes of foreign traffic. Furthermore, the National Digital Response Centre claimed that the difficulties can be attributed to a significant amount of DDoS attacks against Belarusian telecom operators’ infrastructure. However, Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said: “Belarusian authorities are interfering with internet access and restricting content online, apparently to demobilize protests and disconnect people in Belarus from information they have the right to get.” Since August 12, we have seen repeated internet disruptions. On August 17, a 15-minute nationwide disruption was recorded and on August 23 mobile internet services were disrupted for over three hours while protesters were moving toward the presidential palace. Ahead of the latter disruptions, privately-owned internet service provider A1 told users that temporary restrictions of their 3G networks would occur because of “requests by the authorities related to ensuring national security.”

Independent media outlets and human rights groups continue to operate in the country. Protesters have used Telegram to update each other on police movements and guide each other to certain areas. This, Katsiaryna Shmatsina, political analyst with the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies, said can make it more difficult for security services to quash protesters’ coordination. “If we had one clear leader, especially if this leader was in Belarus, we don’t know how long he or she would have lasted.” However, protesters, media outlets and human rights groups routinely experience harassment from the authorities and the threat of being arrested. Following the election, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the main opposition candidate, fled to Lithuania due to safety concerns. Furthermore, several opposition politicians have been detained during the last month. Amnesty International and local human rights groups have also collected testimonies from protesters who described being tortured and subjected to other ill-treatment while detained in detention centres. AI says these testimonies, in addition to video footage showing that screams of torture victims were heard from outside, evidences “a campaign of widespread torture and other ill-treatment by the Belarusian authorities who are intent on crushing peaceful protests by any means.”

The protests have provoked newfound international interest in the often-overlooked country. Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksiy Goncharenko recently wrote that the international community must prioritise support for the civic movement as this is vital to defend Europe’s geopolitical interests and prevent Putin from taking advantage of Lukashenko’s weakness to advance his own foreign policy. If Lukashenko is cut off from the rest of the word, he might find himself in a position where he has to accept Putin’s terms. This list of terms, Goncharenko wrote, would likely include Belarus selling its strategic industrial assets to Kremlin-friendly Russian oligarchs and establishing Russian military bases in the country. Complying with these terms “would transform the geopolitical landscape in Eastern Europe, cutting off the Baltic States and bringing the Russian military to Poland’s eastern border in a far more comprehensive manner than the current limited threat posed by Moscow’s Kaliningrad enclave.” Comprehensive outside support to protesters could be key to prevent Lukashenko’s security apparatus from overpowering them and reduce the chances of Putin gaining more power over the former Soviet empire.

While Lukashenko should not be isolated too much from the international community as this may drive him towards Russian support, international leaders must continue to put pressure on Belarus’ government to stop the human rights violations. Steps have been taken here as the EU released a statement on September 8 saying that it will impose sanctions on individuals responsible for violence, repression, and falsification of election results in Belarus. Furthermore, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia imposed travel bans on President Lukashenko and 29 other Belarusian officials. In addition, Anders Åslund, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, says the country “urgently needs credible outside mediation in order to prevent a potentially deadly deterioration from taking place”. Åslund suggests the experience of Ukraine and the 2004 Orange Revolution as a possibly ideal mediation model. The people involved, including EU’s Javier Solana and then ambassador to Kyiv Chernomyrdin, were diplomats who knew Ukraine and its top politicians well. Åslund recommends that the top mediator should be a senior politician who knows Belarus well, but who has not in the past antagonized Lukashenko too much. Recently, OSCE reiterated its offer to mediate, with diplomats Edi Rama of Albania and Ann Linde of Sweden offering to participate. Such actions should be prioritised now as mediation should be initiated as quickly as possible to prevent further escalation of the crisis.

For now, Amnesty International recommends that should the Belarusian government make requests of businesses which would breach international human rights they must make their opposition known both to the authorities and to the public. If the government demands that internet providers cause disruptions, they should oppose them and challenge them legally as such measures adversely impact human rights such as freedom of expression and ability to freely seek, receive and impart information. Furthermore, Amnesty International recommends that should businesses make any agreements with the authorities or comply with government orders, these should be made transparent to the public.

Shinzo Abe is set to Depart, what does that Hold for Japan’s Future Security?

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Japan had undergone years of topsy-turvy, constant changes in the occupation of the Prime Minister’s office, until Shinzo Abe made a fist of it over the last 8 years – leading the country for the longest consecutive streak on record, and in the process solidifying the Liberal Democratic Party’s hold on power in both chambers of the Legislature. This state of affairs added gravitas to Japan’s image on the International stage.

Suddenly, after weeks of rumours and innuendo, 65 years old Prime Minister Abe announced on August 28th that he will indeed step-down from office owing to a recurring bout of an intestinal disorder. Prime Minister Abe had famously sought to revitalise the flagging Japanese Economy with a set monetary and fiscal policies to revive growth.

If a week is a long time in Politics, eight years could seem an eternity in geo-politics. Japan has underpinned its security guarantees in the bilateral defence pact it has with the United States of America. That has served as a bulwark for over 60 years. But China’s emergence as major geo-political and global player threatens the status quo. China’s increasingly aggressive posture in the South China Sea has been a wake-up call. Japan and China are embroiled in a dispute over ownership of the uninhabited Pinnacle Islands in the East China Sea. Both countries have a long historical legacy of bitterness towards each other – to put it mildly.

Japan has had a pacifist Constitution since May 1947. Shinzo Abe sensing the Changing geo-political currents, embarked on triumvirate approach to foreign policy and security – once he took office. He signalled his intention to revising article 9 of the Constitution which forbids the Country from foreign military engagement as a means to settle International disputes. The downside to that approach is that the constitution sets meandering, and laborious procedures for any change. Public appetite to change has proved to be lukewarm as the case may be.

The second and third angles to the triumvirate have been more tactical, and less strategic, but easier to manage in the short term. He has adopted a containment approach to dealing with China’s growing assertiveness. Even as China has probed into the disputed Islands, Prime Minister Abe has avoided any escalation in words and deeds. This tactic has similarly been at play in how the Abe Government has handled Russia in the Kuril Islands’ dispute. However, being mindful and containing cannot be a strategy that can lead to a guarantee of achieving long term solutions.

The third angle of approach has seen Japan’s increasing its conduct of security partnerships. Japan Self Defence Force in 2019, carried out drills with Armies or Maritime forces of India, Philippines, and the United Kingdom; including being part of a four Nation joint military practise involving Australia, South Korea, and America.

President Donald Trump’s America first abdication of global leadership has not been in Japan’s best interest. President Trump has questioned the wisdom of having American Military forces stationed in the Pacific even as Prime Minister Abe has cozied-up to him.

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un has fired rockets to land off the coast of Japan. The threat he poses while abated in recent months, will not go away. He has called for the removal of American forces in Japan and South Korea as a pre-condition for any Nuclear disarmament on North Korea’s part.

Observers are divided on whether ailing Prime Minister Abe leaves the stage with the glass half-full or half-empty. In the ever-evolving world of International diplomacy and security, an affirmative answer is hard to come by. One thing is for sure though: As issues currently stand… events surrounding Japan’s security arrangements from a geo-political standpoint looks somewhat messy.

It might be too early at this stage to speculate on who Shinzo Abe’s successor will be. The fact of the matter is: The next Prime Minister will have their work cut out. They will have to deal with a public health crisis in Covid-19. An Economy that has contracted due to the pandemic and is in urgent need of a reboot. There is also the rescheduled Olympic games, and general elections – both to come in 2021.

The three aforementioned items are no doubt urgent. But Japan will need a coherent security and foreign policy strategy in the long term to deal with China’s military expansionism, and North Korea’s brazen dictator Kim Jung Un.  That may be in tandem with the United Sates, or any other bilateral or multilateral security arrangement.  We cannot rule out Abe’s successor managing to change the intractable Article 9 of the constitution to grant Japan self-defence force some more leeway. The equation is simple: Japan needs a reliable security deterrent. Peace in Asia pacific calls for that.