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Asia's Game of Thrones
Malaysia and US Talk Spying and Flying

Malaysia has reportedly been in secret talks about giving U.S. spy planes access to its runways, as Josh Rogin writes at BloombergView:

Following a series of incursions into Malaysian waters by Chinese vessels in recent months, talks between the U.S. government and the office of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak have intensified, two senior U.S. defense officials said. The U.S. side has been pressing Najib’s government to allow the U.S. Navy to fly both P-8 Poseidon and P-3 Orion maritime surveillance planes from Malaysian airstrips over South China Sea areas where the Chinese government has been rapidly building artificial islands.

There has been no final agreement between the two governments, but the talks themselves represent a shift of Malaysia’s long effort to straddle the fence between the U.S. and China.

China, the most obvious target for U.S. spy missions in Asia, is Malaysia’s biggest trading partner. Indeed, the big Malaysia–China news earlier this week had been about joint military exercises between the two countries. Yet as we’ve written before, though Asian states cannot avoid cooperating with Beijing on certain key issues, that doesn’t mean they are happy about China’s rise.

The more China asserts itself, the more concerned other Asian governments become, and the more likely they are to band together. In May, Malaysia and Japan upgraded their relationship from “bilateral ties” to “strategic partnership.” If Malaysia does enter into closer military ties with the United States, it would be another sign that China’s regional rivals are indeed looking to forming a net around it—though at the moment Beijing doesn’t seem terribly convinced that meaningful opposition to its rise exists.

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  • tarentius

    P-8’s and P-3’s don’t conduct “spy missions.” They conduct ocean surveillance over international waters.

    • JR

      Whatever euphemism works to get it done. People’s obsession with semantics always seemed curious to me….

      • tarentius

        It’s not a question of semantics. Spying is a an activity that has implications of illegality. If one country bribes an employee of a foreign defense ministry to steal classified documents they are both engaging in illegal activity. An airplane flying over international waters legally collecting information is not in violation of any laws, domestic or international.
        So you comment reflects someone of an inferior knowledge and intellect whose comments on my statement reflect that fact.

        • JR

          Using distinctions without a difference for ad hominem attacks on anonymous Internet boards??? DRINK!!!!!
          I guess you missed the point of the article which states that for China, these are not international waters, but rather their own sovereign space. So upgrade your reading comprehension skills and come back.

          • tarentius

            No you missed the point of my statement. Frankly, I think you are just obtuse and strangely wish to demonstrate that on internet boards.

          • JR

            And you missed the point of mine. Frankly, I think your somewhat limited intelligence is to blame for that. I’m sorry that your expectations of people on anonymous internet boards hanging on your every utterance and not disagreeing with you ever had been shattered. Perhaps you should consider whether your opinion of yourself is higher than others’ opinion of you. Just a thought. HTH.

  • Anthony

    Something to compare (reflect on) idea underlying above post: blogs.cfr.org/davidson/2015/09/03/under-xi-china-prepares-for-modern-warfare/

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    The cats they are all moving in the same direction, this window of opportunity for cat herding won’t last forever.

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