Indo-Pacific Geopolitics Newsletter 02/05/2023

RADAR SWEEP Geopolitics Newsletter January 30 – February 5, 2023 US Secretary of State Antony Blinken cancels diplomatic trip to


Geopolitics Newsletter January 30 – February 5, 2023

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken cancels diplomatic trip to China – Feb. 3

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a diplomatic trip to China originally scheduled for February 5. Secretary Blinken canceled his trip following the discovery of a Chinese balloon floating over US airspace in Montana. The balloon was shot down over the Atlantic Ocean. Washington argues it was sent for intelligence collection, possibly of US strategic missile forces based in Montana. Beijing says it was simply a civilian weather research balloon that was blown off course.

This incident comes as Sino-American relations continue devolving amid increasing competition between the two powers. Earlier this week, tensions increased as the US announced it would expand its military presence in the Philippines by four bases in the country’s north, a move aimed at deterring future Chinese aggression against Taiwan. This is just the latest shift in a greater rivalry, as China seeks to secure regional dominance and challenge US interests in the Indo-Pacific. Blinken’s cancellation of his visit shows that despite President Biden and Xi’s mutual desire to decrease tensions, distrust and rivalry still trumps cooperation and dialogue.

In the short term, expect the balloon incident to increase hostile rhetoric towards China within the United States. Medium-term, tensions between Beijing and Washington will almost certainly remain high; however, Secretary Blinken will likely visit Beijing in order to try to increase cooperation in areas of mutual interest, such as public health and climate change. This is unlikely to decrease competition between the two powers but may help in the short-to-medium term to prevent conflict escalation over other, minor incidents.

Chinese spy balloon

An image of the Chinese spy balloon found traveling over the US – Photo: Chase Douk/Reuters

Indo-Pacific Geopolitics

NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg concluded Japan visit – Feb. 1

NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, visited Japan, where he met with officials including Japanese State Minister for Defence Toshiro Ino and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. This sets the stage for further coordination between Japan and NATO as Japan develops its military capabilities. Read more

Australia’s foreign, defense ministers concluded visits to France, UK – Feb. 2 

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Defense Minister Richard Marles stopped in France before visiting the UK for the annual ‘Aukumin’ summit, where the ministers met with British PM Rishi Sunak. Considerations over the future of UK-Indo-Pacific engagement were top priorities. Read more

South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin met Blinken – Feb. 3 

South Korea’s FM Park Jin met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken as part of a four-day trip during which he also met with UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Developments in North Korea’s nuclear program loomed over conversations as Park discussed U.S. support for South Korea’s Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS) aimed at reinforcing commitment to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Read more


New GCC Secretary General began term – Feb. 1

Jassim Al-Budaiwi began his term as secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Al-Budaiwi is a professional diplomat with an extensive track record, particularly in Western capitals. His appointment is likely an effort to shore up the GCC’s relations with the West. Read more.

Kyiv hosted EU-Ukraine summit – Feb. 3

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky hosted EU officials in Kyiv, nearly a year since Russia invaded Ukraine. The summit is part of an effort on the part of the Ukrainian government to accelerate Ukrainian accession to the European Union. Read more.

Bulgarian MEP barred from Macedonia – Feb. 4

Bulgarian European Parliamentarian Andrey Kovachev was barred from entering Macedonia. The diplomatic spat occurred ahead of a celebration in honor of Gotse Delchev, a Bulgarian-Macedonian revolutionary who fought against Ottoman rule. The MEP was barred for purported pro-Russian stances, but also highlights cold relations between Macedonia and Bulgaria. Read more.

G20 Energy Transition Working Group convened in Bengaluru, India – Feb. 5 

G20 members nations and various international organizations, including the UN and the World Bank, discussed challenges in the global transition to clean energy over a three-day period in Bengaluru. The summit was the group’s inaugural meeting under India’s G20 presidency and an opportunity for India to showcase its growing leadership on climate issues. Read more.

National Security

A new round of Japanese sanctions against Russia came into effect – Feb. 3

A fresh round of Japanese sanctions against Russia came into force, blocking the export of radioactive materials, medical supplies and oil and gas prospecting equipment. The sanctions will not stop Russian energy imports into Japan in the short term but may in the medium term. Read more

Finance, Economics and Technology

IMF released World Economic Outlook 2023 – Jan. 31

The IMF released its updated World Economic Outlook for 2023 last Tuesday. A pessimistic outlook, the report predicts one of the lowest global growth outputs in decades, with the real GDP growth forecast for the year at 2.9%. This is down from the 3.4% recorded in 2022. Real GDP growth estimates for advanced economies are notably reduced,  at 1.2%. However, a global economic rebound was predicted for 2024. Read more.

Indian finance minister presented 2023 budget – Feb. 1

Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the 2023 Union Budget to parliament on Wednesday. While the budget raised the taxable income threshold to alleviate inflation’s effect on the middle class, it otherwise made no significant changes to India’s tax regime. As the next Indian general election is in 2024, PM Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party likely sought to avoid alienating voters with riskier structural changes. Read more.

The Week Ahead

French and German finance ministers visit Washington amid trans-Atlantic trade dispute – Feb. 6

France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and his German counterpart Robert Habeck will visit the United States to discuss trade issues surrounding vehicle production caused by President Biden’s passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. European nations fear their industry will be hurt by tax cuts only available for vehicles with a high percentage of components made in America. Read more [EXTERNAL]

UN Human Rights envoy visits Guantanamo Bay – Feb. 6

For the first time, a UN Human Rights envoy will visit the US prison at Guantanamo Bay and issue a statement on their findings. The prison is infamous for the torture of prisoners captured during the Global War on Terror and still holds 35 detainees. Read more [EXTERNAL]

Pakistan courts expected to indict Imran Khan – Feb. 7

The former Pakistani PM Imran Khan is expected to be indicted on February 7. He is accused of illegally selling expensive watches gifted to him by foreign dignitaries to third-party dealers and keeping the profits. Read more [EXTERNAL]

Russia will expel Estonia’s ambassador – Feb. 7

Russia will expel Estonia’s ambassador following a downturn in relations between Tallinn and Moscow. The animosity between the two countries rapidly increased following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Read more [EXTERNAL]

Contributions by: Wescott Yeaw, Alex Avaneszadeh, Simran Sharma, Marcos Wilson, Connor Elliott, Htet Thadar Aung, Kyle Rose, and Andrew Alipui