Despite the region’s growing interdependence, there remains a frustrating, lingering, expensive lack of security. Well before the US “rebalance” toward Asia; before the 2010 regional territorial/resource disputes; before the 2010 sinking of the South Korean navy ship Cheonan and shelling of Yeongpyeong Island by North Korea, and before the 2017 “fire and fury” threats by President Trump, many observers recognized the need for intensive security diplomacy and arms control in the region. The growing military capabilities of China, the evolution of Japan toward a more “normal” military profile, the insecurity in South and North Korea from continued hostile division, all illustrate the need for urgent attention to bilateral, multilateral and regional approaches to tension reduction.

The actions of the U.S. and China over the past few years – and the tone of their relationship – weigh heavily on contemporary political dynamics and on trends in security. Japanese Prime Minister Suga has vowed to continue Shinzo Abe’s effort to change that country’s security posture and balance against Chinese maritime and ADIZ incursions. Without new and forceful initiatives toward reduced tensions, the evolution of defense budgets, force structures and enhanced weapons systems could further put at risk the impressive economic and political gains of the past thirty years. As Joe Biden takes office in Washington there is today little effective restraint on the growth of ballistic missile and nuclear weapons capabilities. AsiaEast will address these issues with care and in-depth.

No issue contributes more to military insecurity, intra- and international division and diplomatic tension in East Asia than the unresolved issues of peace, development and security in North Korea. Summits between North and South Korea and between the US and North Korea in the past four years have provided tantalizing glimpses of alternative roads to security and development on the Peninsula. The North Korea disputes continue to complicate assessments of US-Chinese interests. Diplomacy aimed at finally ending the Korean War and clearing a path for North Korea’s integration into the region has been slow and unproductive. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has supported drastically increased spending on weaponry but failed to advance parallel and realistic diplomatic initiatives.

AsiaEast will follow these developments closely, with an eye to the regional implications of success or continued failure by the parties to come to mutually acceptable agreements.