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Thailand’s Geopolitical Chess Game: Navigating Maritime Security with Japan’s Insight

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Welcome aboard a voyage through the choppy waters of international relations and maritime security, where Kunihiko Miyake, the esteemed president of the Foreign Policy Institute Japan and former Japanese diplomat, guides us with the finesse of a seasoned skipper.

During a fascinating visit to the Japanese embassy in Thailand, Miyake met with the Bangkok Post on the fringe of an engaging discussion titled “Geopolitics of Asia: Japanese Perspective”. Here, he painted a vivid picture of Asia’s increasingly turbulent geopolitical landscape, with a particular focus on Thailand’s role amidst the brewing storm.

Imagine the South China Sea as a grand chessboard where Thailand is poised as a pivotal knight; according to Miyake, its strategic geographic location is akin to a beacon of stability in an ocean of unpredictability. He asserts that Thailand’s maritime domain is a treasure trove that is not just a source of wealth but a bastion of security, owing to its critical position in global trade routes.

He emphatically makes the case that the lifeblood of international commerce—the crisscrossing sea lanes—is inherently more cost-effective than the iron veins of railroads. The heartbeat of Thailand’s trade, therefore, is its maritime connectivity, reaching the northern reaches of East Asia and beyond to Europe’s illustrious ports—if Thailand wishes to continue its saga as a flourishing industrial realm.

With the acumen of an envoy well-versed in the art of diplomacy, Miyake contrasts Japan’s maritime dependence with Thailand’s more diverse geographical canvas. Despite not being ensnared in conflict with its neighbors, Thailand, he warns, must remain vigilant, particularly with the shadow of the South China Sea’s enigma looming overhead—a theatre where the ambitions of giants could stir the placid waters.

“They aim to command the sea, to shatter the dominant US naval supremacy,” Miyake elucidates with the clarity of a seasoned analyst. “Thailand’s reliance on its waters is mirrored by nations such as Vietnam and the Philippines, yet each dances to the tune of a different set of challenges with China. This is precisely why Thailand is the jewel in Asean’s crown—a staunch defender of the status quo, a bastion of democracy,” he proclaims.

Miyake goes on to stress the importance of Thailand balancing the scales of its relationship with the mighty United States, whose vested interests fall in line with safeguarding and amplifying Thailand’s sovereignty.

As he delves into Japan’s tight-knit bond with the United States, Miyake reveals the symbiotic nature of this alliance, rooted in strategic necessity. The proximity of US bases in Okinawa to Taiwan renders Japan an essential pawn in the grander geostrategic game against China’s assertive rise.

“Since the aftermath of World War II, our nations have nurtured a codependent relationship of mutual advantage, undergirded by shared values and mutual defense. We each leverage our strengths to preserve the status quo, and Thailand stands as a kindred spirit in this pursuit—a cornerstone of regional stability within the dynamic tapestry of Asean,” he specifies.

When the conversation steers towards how Japan and Thailand can bolster maritime bonds and navigation of tumultuous political tides, Miyake is clear: Japan has shed its militaristic past. Instead, it seeks to fortify maritime sanctuaries with an alliance of like-minded nations, providing much-needed support through maritime law enforcement, coast guard training, and cooperation.

Drawing an example, he sheds light on the recent assistance to the Philippines with radar systems, emphasizing this gesture as a form of defense and deterrence, not aggression. Such measures, he posits, exemplify the kind of aid Thailand might also employ to guard its aquatic frontiers.

In a message resonant with ambition, Miyake encourages Thai intellectuals, including the media, to broaden their horizons, to don global lenses rather than peer through regional spectacles. He implores them to weave Southeast Asian interests within a grander global fabric, encompassing strategic thought on East Asia, the Indo-Pacific, Europe, and the Middle East—to, in essence, elevate Thailand’s stature on the world stage.

So ends our captivating journey with a clarion call for a more profound and inclusive perspective—one that would securely anchor Thailand’s interests in the vast expanse of a changing global landscape.

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