March 6: Defense Policy Changes in the Indo-Pacific in Response to Rising Tensions over Taiwan

March 6: Defense Policy Changes in the Indo-Pacific in Response to Rising Tensions over Taiwan

Monday, March 6, 2023 from 9:30 AM – 11:15 AM (ET)

In-Person (RSVP here) and Webcast

Event Description:

The Global Taiwan Institute (GTI) is pleased to invite you to a seminar discussion titled “Defense Policy Changes in the Indo-Pacific in Response to Rising Tensions over Taiwan.”

The year 2022 saw a dramatic escalation in the tensions surrounding Taiwan. This was observed most prominently in the provocative military exercises that People’s Republic of China (PRC) forces conducted in August 2022 in the immediate wake of a visit to Taiwan by then-US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Taiwan also experienced aerial incursions over its outlying islands, as well as elevated levels of military aviation activity near its airspace and into its declared air defense identification zone (ADIZ). These actions have been accompanied by increasingly aggressive rhetorical and textual assertions of sovereignty over Taiwan made by leaders and propaganda outlets of the PRC’s ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP)—which, if anything, became even more forceful and rigid throughout 2022.

While this escalation of tensions has received considerable attention in the United States, less attention has been paid to the significant effect that these developments have had on national security and military planning within Taiwan itself, as well as in other countries in the Indo-Pacific region. In Taiwan, these tensions have spurred policymakers and defense officials to take noteworthy steps, including an increase in the production of domestic armaments and an extension of conscripted military service time. In Japan, concerns over the PRC’s aggressive behavior have prompted the release of a watershed National Security Strategy document in late 2022, accompanied by an announced dramatic increase in defense spending. And in the Philippines, the government has concluded a new agreement with the United States for the use of military bases, with the new presidential administration of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. issuing clear statements of concern about the prospects for a conflict over Taiwan.

This seminar will provide discussion of some of the major defense policy responses being made by states in the region—as well as some of the efforts being made by the US military itself as it repositions itself to more effectively deter potential PRC military aggression against Taiwan.

Panelists will include: Lt. Gen. Wallace ‘Chip’ Gregson (USMC, ret.), and Dr. Naoko Aoki (RAND Corp.), and Renato Cruz De Castro (De La Salle University). The event will be moderated by GTI Deputy Director John Dotson.

Doors will open at 9:00 AM, and the event will begin at 9:30 AM. If you plan on attending in-person, please RSVP by March 3, as seating is limited. A light breakfast will be provided. Please direct questions or concerns to Program Manager Marshall Reid at mreid@globaltaiwan.org.

**Media: Please contact Marshall Reid at mreid@globaltaiwan.org if you would like to bring additional crew members or equipment, so that we can be sure to accommodate you.

COVID Procedures: Proof of vaccination will be required at check in. Attendees unable to provide documentation will be required to wear a mask. Masks are optional for vaccinated individuals who are able to provide proof of vaccination. 

The Speakers:

Lieutenant General Wallace ‘Chip’ Gregson (USMC, ret.) served previously from 2009-2011 as the assistant secretary of defense, Asian and Pacific Security Affairs. From 2003 to 2005, he was commanding general of Marine Corps Forces Pacific and Marine Corps Forces Central Command, where he led and managed over 70,000 US Marine Corps and US Navy personnel in the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region. From 2001 to 2003 he served as commanding general of the III Marine Expeditionary Force in Japan, and from 1998 to 2000 he was director of Asia-Pacific Policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Lt. Gen. Gregson is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations; the US Naval Institute; and the Marine Corps Association. He is a Trustee of the Marine Corps University Foundation. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the US Naval Academy, and master’s degrees in Strategic Planning from the Naval War College, and International Relations from Salve Regina College.

Dr. Naoko Aoki is an associate political scientist at the RAND Corporation. She specializes in East Asian security issues, and has written about Japanese foreign and security policies, the North Korean nuclear problem, American alliances in Asia, and nuclear dynamics in the region. Prior to joining RAND, Aoki was a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, where she conducted research on security matters in the Indo-Pacific region. Her professional experience includes a nuclear security fellowship with the House of Representatives. Dr. Aoki was formerly a journalist with Japan’s Kyodo News, reporting on the Japanese government from Tokyo before serving as a Beijing correspondent. She holds a Ph.D. in Policy Studies from the University of Maryland, College Park, an M.A. in International Relations and International Economics from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and a B.A. in English from Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan.

Renato Cruz De Castro is a distinguished university professor in the International Studies Department, De La Salle University, Manila, and holds the Dr. Aurelio Calderon Chair in Philippines-American Relations. As a member of the Board of Trustees of the Albert Del Rosario Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ADRI), he writes monthly opinion columns for the Philippine Star and Business World.

The Moderator:

John Dotson is the deputy director at GTI. He has performed extensive writing and research on a range of political and national security issues related to US policy in East Asia, including Chinese propaganda and influence efforts, military-civil fusion efforts within the People’s Liberation Army, and patterns in military coercion efforts directed against Taiwan. He is a proficient Mandarin linguist, who has performed extensive original research in indigenous Chinese language sources. Dotson holds an MA in National Security Studies from the US Naval War College, and a Master of International Public Policy from Johns Hopkins-SAIS.

Event Summary:

On March 6, 2023, the Global Taiwan Institute (GTI) hosted a seminar discussion titled “Defense Policy Changes in the Indo-Pacific in Response to Rising Tensions over Taiwan.” The event was moderated by GTI Deputy Director John Dotson. He was joined by GTI Advisor LtGen. Wallace ‘Chip’ Gregson (USMC, ret.), former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs; Naoko Aoki, associate political scientist at the RAND Corporation; and Renato Cruz De Castro, distinguished professor in the International Studies Department at De La Salle University, Manila.

Dotson opened by contextualizing the topic, explaining that although rising cross-Strait tensions are commonly associated with the PLA’s provocative military demonstrations, less attention is focused on the resulting change in regional defense postures. He commended Taiwan’s own efforts in increasing its defense budget and lengthening conscripted service time to one year. Before turning the floor over to Dr. De Castro, he ended his introductory remarks by detailing recent developments in the United States, the Philippines, and Japan.

Dr. De Castro began his presentation by discussing the Philippine’s importance, both as a US ally and as a geopolitical stakeholder in cross-Strait tensions. He continued his presentation by detailing historical events that helped revitalize US-Philippines relations, resulting in a number of new defense cooperation agreements. De Castro stated that in recent decades, the Philippines’ security priorities were oriented towards developing internal stability. Filipino threat perceptions shifted again with the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine War in 2022, which led former President Rodrigo Duterte to fear that China could be emboldened to move on Taiwan. In turn, such an attack would also threaten the Philippines. This heightened regional instability caused the Duterte Administration to tentatively propose closer cooperation with the United States, including offering access to bases, despite its previous anti-American signaling. Since then, the momentum of security collaboration has continued for the alliance. Dr. De Castro discussed the Philippines’ increased joint exercises, not only with the United States, but also with powers such as Japan and Australia. The administration of current President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos has committed itself to working towards greater Indo-pacific stability. Dr. De Castro concluded by quoting Marcos’ observation that it may be impossible for the Philippines to remain neutral, and that it needed to respect “geopolitical realities.”

Next, Dr. Aoki provided her insights on Japan’s perspectives and defense buildup. She affirmed that cross-Strait tensions are a primary driver for both public and elite support for building defense capabilities. This has built upon Tokyo’s already strong rapport with Taiwan. Dr. Aoki also identified concerns over the Senkaku islands, North Korea, China, and Russia (and the latter three’s potential cooperation) as other contributors to Japan’s changing defense posture. Indeed, the Kishida Administration published three national security documents in 2022 that formalized incremental defense shifts. This included efforts to scale the defense budget to 2 percent of total GDP– a significant increase from the previous informal 1 percent cap. Recently, Japan has considered pursuing counter-strike capabilities by acquiring US Tomahawk missiles and hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs). Though counter strike capabilities remain a sensitive topic, Dr. Aoki asserted that Japan’s alliance with the United States remains the cornerstone of its security strategy. Japan is also participating multilaterally in joint exercises and international organizations such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, and seeking a favorable balance of power.

General Gregson rounded out the discussion with an overview of evolving US defense strategy. He began by personally agreeing with Dr. De Castro and Dr. Aoki’s regional analyses. General Gregson went on to frame the US position through a geographic lens, displaying a map of the first and second island chains. He explained that geography itself does not change, but that shifts in national ambition and developments in technology have changed the operational situation for both militaries and policymakers. For instance, the United States’ previous maritime and air superiority has been credibly challenged by improvements in Chinese (and now North Korean) power projection. He provided the Department of Defense’s definition of a littoral region, and asserted that the concept of a littoral region could now be expanded to the far oceans due to military advancements. With adversarial powers no longer landlocked, the United States has been working on increasing jointness across its service branches and updating its sea and air doctrine to fit these new realities. General Gregson ended with a viable strategy for the future: In the era of the “Mature Precision Strike Regime,” the United States will need a “widely distributed, politically sustainable, and operationally resilient posture.” Accordingly, US forces must be small and agile with precision strike capabilities in order to maintain sea control. He warned that survivability is crucial, and said the United States must prepare itself to be a difficult target.

This event summary was written by GTI Spring 2023 Intern Melynn Oliver.

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