The Future of Asia 2012

Asian Tensions Increase Nuclearization Risk: Panel

Thursday, May 23, 2013

TOKYO (Nikkei)--Tensions in East Asia and the South China Sea have increased the risk of escalating militarization and nuclearization across the region, a panel said Thursday in Tokyo.

Territorial issues, the growing strength of China and North Korean belligerence have increased risk across the region, the panel said at the 19th International Conference on The Future of Asia.

"The pressure on South Korea to become militarily self-sufficient is going to increase. Increasing militarization and increasing nuclearization is going to be a trend throughout East Asia," said Arthur Waldron, professor of International Relations at the University of Pennsylvania. He expressed doubt that U.S. promises to defend Japan and South Korea would be met if tensions continued to escalate.

This view was echoed by Shinichi Kitaoka, president of International University of Japan, who said, "The nuclear umbrella of the U.S. has become less credible (in Asia)." Asian countries must make their own efforts to deal with North Korea, he added.

Surin Pitsuwan, a former secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, said ASEAN may offer a way to resolve issues, particularly tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

"If a country like North Korea is going to concede to anyone, it will not likely be a country like Japan, South Korea, Russia or the U.S.," he said. "What ASEAN is trying to do is offer a stage to come together and discuss."

China should contribute more to solving the problem of North Korea by helping delay the nuclearization of the country, said Shin Kawashima, associate professor at the University of Tokyo. "The cooperation of other Asia-Pacific countries is important to deal with the North," he said. "Japan and South Korea should solve their bilateral problems."

Yan Xuetong, dean of the Institute of Modern International Relations at China's Tsinghua University, said it would not be wise for Japan and South Korea to nuclearize because North Korea had done so. He said the price of regional nuclearization would likely be high.

As for territorial issues in the East and South China seas, Yan said China wants to solve them "peacefully."

Titles of speakers, names of companies, etc., were correct as of the time when the forum was held.