North Korea’s nuclear grandstanding and inflammatory missile tests, President Trump’s anti-Pyongyang rhetoric and U.S. missile deployments have raised tensions in North East Asia. Our Senior Advisor for the Korean Peninsula Christopher Green looks at where South Korea’s 9 May presidential election fits into these newly complex dynamics.
CrisisWatch is a monthly early warning bulletin designed to provide a regular update on the state of the most significant situations of conflict around the world.
Dangerous aerial and naval encounters are rising as China and Japan spar over disputed islands in the East China Sea. A promising reconciliation process has floundered. To prevent an accident tipping the dispute into open hostility, both sides urgently need a credible crisis management protocol to insulate any negotiations from their broader rivalry.
The race for hydrocarbon reserves in the South China Sea is aggravating conflicting territorial claims. The regional players need cooperation, yet have increasingly open confrontations at sea. For peaceful joint energy development, all parties need to stop acting unilaterally and do more to understand the others’ goals and limitations.
Prospects are bleak that the Six-Party Talks can lead to a denuclearised Korean peninsula, notably since North Korea has made nuclear weapons an integral part of its identity. The international community must open new channels of communication and interaction, give greater roles to international organisations, the private sector and civil society.
The South China Sea is the cockpit of geopolitics in East Asia, and growing tensions pose a serious threat to stability in the region. China and ASEAN must take advantage of the currently favourable environment to establish new codes of crisis management, especially at sea, to withstand any new conflicts.
In the shadow of growing North Korean threats, South Korea needs to reform its intelligence apparatus to restore public confidence while enhancing the country’s intelligence capacity.
The deterioration in relations between China and Japan has spiraled beyond an island sovereignty dispute and risks an armed conflict neither wants. A November regional summit is a fence-mending opportunity – if the two countries’ leaders rise above nationalism and manage multiple flashpoints.
China is putting a lot of capital and institutional effort behind the Belt and Road. But it’s not going to reshape Asia in a few years. It will take a couple of decades to assess the impact, if China sticks with it.
The main significance of [China's Belt and Road Forum] is optics: Making Xi Jinping look presidential and effective at home and making China look rich and powerful on the world stage.
China likely recognises that Pyongyang's technical progress has increased Washington's threat perception and sense of urgency.
North Korea could have been a subject on which China and the U.S. could have worked together to build confidence and trust between each other, but instead it's become a source of deeper mistrust.
[China’s relations with its neighbors have deteriorated significantly, as the region continues to engage in an arms race.] Before, the region was in the process of economic integration, the building of multilateral institutions, and regional governance by consensus. But in recent years, that has all been unraveling. In its place you have an arms race and the building-up of deterrents and the fracturing of multilateral institutions. It’s not good.
Cooperating on oil won't work - but fishing might.
Originally published in The National Interest
The Hague’s looming decision on a Filipino challenge to Chinese claims could reverse the region’s collision course.
Originally published in The Wall Street Journal
Originally published in China File
Xi Jinping’s choice of audience and venues — no doubt fastidiously vetted — convey much more information than his Seattle speech, which unsurprisingly was devoid of surprises.
Originally published in ChinaFile