Daily Memo: Middle Powers and the Disempowered

Belarusians continue to protest, as Japan helps out where it can in the South China Sea.

Middle powers in the Indo-Pacific. On Tuesday, Japan agreed to lend Vietnam some $345 million to buy six Japanese maritime patrol vessels. Japan has been passing out used coast guard vessels around Southeast Asia over the past several years, but the new ones are considered a substantial upgrade for Vietnam at a time when its littoral waters are coming under increased Chinese pressure. As we’ve explained, the bulk of the contest for control in the South China Sea is taking place in the so-called gray zone. And this is an area where Japan is perhaps even better-equipped than the U.S. to help South China Sea claimant states. Meanwhile, India has been encouraging Russia to get more involved in Indo-Pacific affairs, by proposing, for example, a trilateral consultation mechanism involving Japan. These sorts of midlevel players in the region are all limited in what they can do to balance against China, and starkly conflicting interests will make it difficult to form any sort of united front against Beijing. But for countries like Vietnam and India that are leery of getting caught in the crossfire of a zero-sum great power conflict between China and the U.S., the more the merrier. Belarusian unrest, […]

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