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Letter from the Editors
In the last issue of Global Asia, our cover package on “Trump in Asia” pointed to anxieties about the direction of US policy in the region, in particular the war of words between Kim Jong Un in North Korea and Donald Trump in the US, which many feared could inadvertently lead to war. As the current issue was about to go to press, Trump stunned the world by instantly accepting an invitation to meet Kim delivered on March 8 by a high-level delegation of South Korean officials. That meeting is currently set for May. As improbable as it seemed only a few months ago, there is now hope, however cautious and guarded, that this could begin a path to denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula, potentially removing one of Northeast Asia’s greatest threats to stability. But it is a long shot, and the path is likely to be strewn with many obstacles.
Moreover, the Korean Peninsula is only one of many potential points of conflict in Asia. Maritime and territorial disputes litter the region and divide countries large and small, some fueled by lingering historical grievances: Taiwan remains divided from mainland China, with the prospect of forced reunification still on the table; India and Pakistan, both nuclear powers, remain mired in mutual distrust; and a rising China, led by a president who on March 11 — in another momentous recent surprise — received constitutional authority to remain in power indefinitely, is showing an increasing willingness to assert its growing power throughout the region, putting it on a path of potential conflict with the US in Asia.
In our cover package, we examine how these multiple security concerns underpin a region-wide push to modernize militaries to prepare for possible contingencies and lay the groundwork for an arms race in Asia. Under the guest editorship of Peter Hayes, a member of our Editorial Board, we examine what is taking place around the region to enhance military capabilities, and the strategic rationale of the governments concerned. To be sure, military modernization can be an instrument to ensure stability and avoid conflict in a troubled world, but it can also be a wellspring of tension and conflict if threat perceptions arising from those efforts aren’t properly managed.
In our Features section, we look at how co-operation between traditional multilateral development lenders such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank and the newly created development banks led by China is emerging and how it could provide a boost to a region in desperate need of better infrastructure funding; at efforts by Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines to forge a trilateral relationship to resolve common security problems; at how India and the US are deepening their bilateral relationship under Trump; how Asia’s coastal cities are courting disaster by ignoring the need to prepare for rising sea levels now, in the face of climate change; and whether the rule of law in Hong Kong is being undermined by Beijing, as some legal observers in the autonomous region argue, given a number of recent incidents.
In our In Focus section, we look at the possibility of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, especially in the context of the diplomatic initiatives surrounding the PyeongChang Olympics.
Finally, as always, we feature reviews of some of the most intriguing books on Asia.
Walter C. Clemens, Jr
07 Feb 2018 - North Korea now deigns to take part in the Winter Olympics. Its rulers may again be ready to negotiate—not only with South Korea but also with the United States. Claiming that it now has the means to deter an American attack, Pyongyang exudes confidence that it can counter threats by the US and its South Korean ally. US Ambassador Nikki Haley complains that North Korea is “obses… Read full post
05 Dec 2017 - The recent electoral victory of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)-Komeito coalition has brought down the curtains -- at least for now -- on a period of political flux and uncertainty in the country’s political landscape. In the run-up to the elections held on Oct. 22, the Abe government had been plagued by a series of scandals and g… Read full post
20 Sep 2017 - The Malabar 2017 naval exercises were held in the Bay of Bengal during July 10-17 with participation from the Indian, US and Japanese navies to “increase interoperability amongst the three navies as well as to develop common understanding and procedures for maritime security operations.”1 Although the Malabar started out as bilateral exercises between India and the US back in 19… Read full post
06 Sep 2017 - Amid the growing anxiety generated by North Korea’s recent missile tests and its dramatic sixth nuclear test, the Trump administration is grappling with the challenge of finding a proportionate response. Somehow, it needs to simultaneously punish the North for its continuing provocations, slow down and ultimately reverse Kim Jong-un’s WMD modernization program, and ensure that t… Read full post
Robert E. McCoy
25 Aug 2017 - Much has been made of South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s desire to reopen the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), the special industrial zone set up in 2002 in North Korea where South Korean businesses could operate using workers from the North. As most readers will recall, Moon’s predecessor shut down the KIC in February 2016 in response to an earlier North Korean nuclear test … Read full post
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