8 In­tro­duc­tion: A Path to Peace or a Loom­ing Peril?

Global Asia - - CONTENTS - By David Plott

nu­mer­ous po­ten­tial flash points are fu­el­ing asia’s push to mod­ern­ize their mil­i­tary forces, thus risk­ing an arms race.

De­spite Decades of durable peace in asia, the re­gion is pep­pered with po­ten­tial flash­points and per­sis­tent his­tor­i­cal griev­ances that could erupt into armed con­flict through mis­cal­cu­la­tion of in­ten­tions, overzeal­ous am­bi­tions or even mis­man­age­ment of the po­tent forces of na­tion­al­ism sim­mer­ing in coun­tries through­out the asia-pa­cific. More­over, the re­gion is at the cen­ter of the emerg­ing ri­valry be­tween China and the united states for global in­flu­ence in the 21st cen­tury. that con­test is set­ting in mo­tion a com­plex drama for coun­tries in asia seek­ing to ben­e­fit from both sides, with­out hav­ing to side with ei­ther — at least not ex­plic­itly. even amer­ica’s al­lies are feel­ing the force of that vise as they pros­per from their rapidly grow­ing eco­nomic re­la­tions with China while de­pend­ing on the se­cu­rity guar­an­tees of the us.

It is no won­der, then, that na­tions in asia, flush with the fruits of strong eco­nomic growth for years, are pour­ing re­sources into mod­ern­iz­ing their mil­i­taries, as they cal­cu­late their se­cu­rity needs in a chang­ing geopo­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment that could pose threats in the fu­ture. the se­ries of ar­ti­cles in this cover pack­age of Global Asia looks in de­tail at the pat­terns of mil- itary build-up and mod­ern­iza­tion in the re­gion, the mo­tives be­hind such moves, the threat per­cep­tions driv­ing de­ci­sions, shift­ing mil­i­tary strate­gies, weapons ac­qui­si­tions, and bi­lat­eral and re­gional con­se­quences. the re­lent­less rise of China — which is led by a pres­i­dent who only this month was in­vested with the right to rule with­out term lim­its — fig­ures large in these mat­ters. Bei­jing un­der the lead­er­ship of Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping is mak­ing enor­mous strides in mod­ern­iz­ing China’s mil­i­tary and trans­form­ing it into one that is in­creas­ingly ca­pa­ble of con­test­ing us power in its neigh­bor­hood. that has trig­gered a more con­certed ef­fort by Ja­pan to re­vise con­sti­tu­tional lim­its on its own mil­i­tary, and not only ex­pand its al­ready con­sid­er­able ca­pa­bil­i­ties but in­te­grate them ever more closely with those of the us.

south Korea sits astride one of the most volatile flash­points in north­east asia, and is de­ter­mined — de­spite the us com­mit­ment to de­fend the coun­try — to deepen its own abil­ity to deal with a pos­si­ble armed con­flict with north Korea, even as it pushes hard to en­gage with Py­ongyang fol­low­ing the dra­matic diplo­matic over­tures sur­round­ing the Win­ter Olympics in Pyeongchang. But as it is find­ing out, some de­ci­sions it has taken, such

It is no won­der that na­tions in Asia, flush with the fruits of strong eco­nomic growth for years, are pour­ing re­sources into mod­ern­iz­ing their mil­i­taries, as they cal­cu­late their se­cu­rity needs in a chang­ing geopo­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment that could pose threats in the fu­ture.

as al­low­ing the de­ploy­ment of an ad­vanced us anti-mis­sile sys­tem on its soil, have ex­posed it to un­usu­ally harsh treat­ment by China.

Mean­while, the us, long the sole hege­mon in the re­gion, has seen its iconic sev­enth Fleet em­bar­rassed by a se­ries of mishaps, some fa­tal, that could weaken per­cep­tions of the coun­try’s abil­ity to sus­tain its mil­i­tary role in asia.

But it is not only north­east asia that is en­gaged in mil­i­tary mod­ern­iza­tion. Rus­sia is steadily ex­pand­ing its force struc­ture in its Far eastern ter­ri­to­ries, be­com­ing once again a po­ten­tial player — per­haps in con­cert with China — in a part of the world that its mil­i­tary largely ne­glected af­ter the fall of the soviet union. In­dia, feel­ing the pres­sure of China’s grow­ing pres­ence in Cen­tral and south asia, is gear­ing up its mil- itary ca­pa­bil­i­ties to en­sure its con­tin­ued in­flu­ence over the In­dian Ocean re­gion and its abil­ity to work with the mil­i­taries of other democ­ra­cies such as the us, Ja­pan and aus­tralia. In the mean­time, aus­tralia, long a vi­tal player in amer­ica’s se­cu­rity cal­cu­la­tions in asia, is deep­en­ing its de­pen­dence on and value to its us ally. even south­east asian na­tions are ac­tively mod­ern­iz­ing their forces. this ramp­ing up of mil­i­tary strength will re­quire wis­dom and co-op­er­a­tion to avoid be­com­ing per­ilous. We can only hope the arms build-up in asia will be a force for en­sur­ing peace and not a ba­sis for con­flict in the years ahead.

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