How COVID-19 will reshape Indo-Pacific security (The Diplomat)

Authors: Jiyoon Kim, Jihoon Yu, and Erik French | The Diplomat | Published 24 July 2020

This article is one of a number of pieces circulating that usefully starts to ponder the effect COVID-19 will have on strategic relations in the Indo-Pacific. It presents one of the more comprehensive lists of possible effects. The narrow focus of the article, however, means two major results of the pandemic, a change in the relativities in economic power and a possible change in the US Administration, are not clearly factored into the analysis. With regard to the question of impact of Covid-19 on military readiness, there may be room for greater caution; it is yet to be seen if the worst predictions about a shift in the military balance because of readiness issues will eventuate.

Article summary:

In just a few months, COVID-19 has spread across the Indo-Pacific, infecting thousands and causing massive social and economic disruption. While some states, like South Korea and Vietnam, have had great success in containing the pandemic, others like India, Indonesia, and, of course, the United States continue to face substantial domestic outbreaks. COVID-19 will likely have a range of significant effects on Indo-Pacific security and geopolitics in both the short and long-term.

  • In the near future, COVID-19 will degrade military readiness in the Indo-Pacific… Lower levels of readiness across the region will increase the risk of international accidents and incidents involving military forces.
  • U.S. allies and adversaries alike [may be lead] to question whether the U.S. armed forces remain able to meet the United States’ extensive security commitments in the Indo-Pacific.
  • The pandemic may also lead to greater instability on the Korean Peninsula in the near term. 
  • COVID-19 also may temporarily impede India’s growing role in Indo-Pacific regional security.
  • COVID-19 is likely to intensify U.S.-China regional rivalry… The mutual antagonism born out of the COVID-19 epidemic is likely to outlast the disease itself, contributing to growing strategic competition between the Indo-Pacific’s two most powerful states.
  • The coronavirus may also have a long-term impact on U.S. and Chinese regional influence and power. As the U.S. has struggled to contain the virus at home, its regional (and global) reputation has suffered. China, meanwhile, has leveraged assistance and propaganda to strengthen its soft power in developing states across the region. 
  • In the long run, COVID-19 is also likely to damage the legitimacy of the liberal international order in the Indo-Pacific. Leading international institutions have struggled to manage the outbreak.
  • At the same time, the coronavirus may well contribute to the emergence of new regional institutions designed to tackle shared security challenges.
  • Lastly, the COVID-19 pandemic will likely have a long-term impact on threat perceptions across the Indo-Pacific. States, facing the extensive damage caused by the coronavirus, are likely to take pathogenic security more seriously in the long-run.

Read the full article (external link to The Diplomat)