Tuesday, July 10, 2007

East Asian Security Environment in Transition: Part I (excerpt)

East Asia has emerged as an important economic powerhouse for global development; however, the region still faces many challenges on both political and security fronts. The security environment in East Asia has been influenced by three major factors: 1) economic interdependence, 2) political democratization and 3) military modernization. Moreover, it is a product of the implementation of various strategies adopted by individual East Asian countries. These strategies can be summarized as follows: China’s strategic expansion, US’s strategic diversion, Japan’s strategic normalization, South Korea’s strategic reorientation, North Korea’s strategic provocation, and Taiwan’s strategic transformation. In addition, the regional trends such as expanding democratization, growing economic integration, and changing military balance also shape the security situation of East Asia. As a result, East Asian security environment has ushered into an important but critical era full of uncertainties, which challenge the peace and stability in the region.

In my view, the security and strategic environment in East Asia has entered into a transitional period of structural changes. Therefore, relations among East Asian countries will be forced to move into a stage of necessary adjustment and accommodation, even though the process will be an uncertain one. The transformation of security environment in East Asian reflects, on the one hand, the development of some regional trends, and on the other hand, the adjustment of each individual country’s strategy.

Asia-Pacific countries will probably continue to move on the road of political democracy, military security, and economic prosperity, on the grounds that promoting democratic peace, increasing economic interdependence and maintaining military balance are the crucial factors for enhancing the stable and peaceful growth of the region. However, there are also challenges lying ahead. For example, as a consequence of each individual country’s calculation of its own national interests, the interaction among East Asian countries has become much more complicated. Military transparency is critical for building trust among countries and helps to reduce misperception and miscalculation; nevertheless, the lack of effective regional mechanisms for security talks and cooperation will create more uncertainties. One of the most critical tests for all the relevant countries, from my perspective, is whether or not these countries can work together to reduce misunderstandings in the transformation process of East Asian security environment.

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