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, 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 – and the tone of their relationship – weigh heavily on contemporary political dynamics and on trends in security. Japanese Prime Minister Abe has made changing that country’s security posture and balancing against Chinese maritime incursions top priorities. 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 twenty years. 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, and with the participation of industry, think tank and NGO specialists.
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. North-South Korean violence has spiked in recent years, US-DPRK tensions have escalated, and the North Korea disputes distort assessments of US-China interests. Diplomacy aimed at finally ending the Korean War and clearing a path for North Korea’s integration into the region has been stalled for years. South Korean President Park Geun Hye struggles to advance new initiatives with the North’s Kim Jung Un while keeping her political and alliance friends on board. We are just now seeing fresh efforts by the North and South to break this costly and lingering impasse, but success is far from assured. 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.