The prospects for conflict in East Asia

Authored by: Andrew T. H. Tan

Security and Conflict in East Asia

Print publication date:  May  2015
Online publication date:  April  2015

Print ISBN: 9781857437171
eBook ISBN: 9781315850344
Adobe ISBN:


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The high tensions in East Asia, the highest since the end of the Second World War, have led to fears of open conflict involving the states in the region as well as extra-regional powers, in particular the USA. By early 2013 tensions between North Korea on the one hand, and South Korea, the USA and Japan, on the other, had deteriorated to their worst level since the end of the Korean War in 1953, sparking fears of an accidental war due to North Korea’s brinkmanship and political miscalculation (ICG 2013a). Tensions between the People’s Republic of China and Japan were also at their highest since the end of the Second World War, due to their dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands (Hughes 2013). More seriously, China, the USA and North Korea possess nuclear weapons, and Japan has always been regarded as a threshold nuclear power, as it possesses plutonium stocks generated through its power industry, ballistic missile capability and the technology to rapidly transform itself into a significant nuclear weapons power should it choose to do so (Rublee 2010: 62–63). South Korea could also be forced to develop its own nuclear weapons if the threat from a hostile, aggressive and unpredictable North Korea continues to grow as it develops its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons capabilities, and uses them to coerce South Korea ( New York Times 2013).

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