November 06, 2017

The Gulf of Aden Needs US-China Maritime Cooperation

By Brittney Washington

While President Donald Trump has expressed optimism about his relationship with President Xi Jinping, U.S.-China relations seemed to have cooled because of tension over the North Korea nuclear issue as well as Trump’s call for an investigation into China’s trade practices. But Washington and Beijing will need to also focus on prioritizing areas of shared interest ripe for cooperation – and Somalia is a compelling case – if Trump and Xi Jinping are going to make “bad problems go away anytime soon. This is particularly important for Somalia, a country that is significant to Trump’s top foreign policy goal of defeating violent extremism and key to global trade and regional security in East Africa.

Terrorist attacks orchestrated by the al-Qaeda backed al-Shabaab and famine brought on by a severe drought earlier this year are major challenges to the Somali government, which may now be facing a re-emerging threat: piracy.

We have seen an uptick in piracy incidents in the Gulf of Aden during the first half of this year, a common threat to U.S. and Chinese interests in Africa. According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), five piracy incidents occurred during the second quarter of this year, including a high-profile hijacking of an Indian cargo dhow in April, in addition to other reports of vessels being fired upon or boarded by pirates. This may seem to be an insignificant number of incidents, but it is a sizable jump from zero hijackings reported last year. Relaxed security measures, including the end of NATO’s anti-piracy mission in the region, along with Somali fishermen’s frustration with illegal fishing competition­ may explain piracy’s re-emergence.

Read the full commentary in The Diplomat.