The American pivot to Asia, the increasing military capabilities of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the growing threat posed by the nuclear and ballistic program of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), have accelerated the evolution of the US-Japan alliance that had started after the end of the Cold War.
As have been explained elsewhere in this dossier North Korea is flexing its military muscles actively and consciously increasing the risk of a military conflict with South Korea and its allies-small scale or not so small-scale.
One year has passed since the new leader, Kim Jong-un (age 30), rose to power in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The alleged “Will of Kim Jong-il”, Kim’s late father, demanded that the successor mend relations with South Korea, and move to resume the Six-Party talks, with the aim of gaining recognition as a nuclear power. Given these mandates, the last year might be seen as rather unsuccessful. So how can we explain the current developments in North Korea?
While the international press did not cover China’s foreign and security policies as priority issues on the agenda of Beijing’s new leadership, China’s incoming leadership under President Xi Jinping is nonetheless charged with the challenge to explain and formulate how Xi and his entourage are planning to deal with the country’s allies and rivals in and beyond the region.
US-China relations will remain on their current track after the US presidential election and Chinese leadership transition. Both countries are too heavily invested in the bilateral relationship and understand the dangerous consequences if it goes off the rails. Still, while institutional pressures and national interests will press for continuity, there is always a chance that miscalculation or deliberate provocation will push the two countries toward conflict.