While the US is seeking a way of rebalancing China in East Asia its approach left space for interpretation. The strategy of positioning itself in Asia on basis of concrete security issues and alliances while keeping its involvement open is seemingly only one aspect of the new game. Today a more or less refined toolbox of ‘strategic persuasion’ was designed in order to deal with an increasingly influential and powerful China. Instead of engaging in a non-desirable and costly direct military opposition to China, the US tries to pull all the strings in order influence its behavior towards moderation particularly in East Asia. In so doing, Washington is encountering an expectation-perception gap. So far the strategy has not necessarily proven successful. In Beijing, strategic maneuvers were often not fully understood and responses did not turn out not as initially desired. The US’ pivot to Asia has aroused a primordial fear in modern China: containment by outside powers. With a return to more traditional language of balancing, in China the situation was better understood. Yet, the implication remains the same. China has in reaction adopted a more assertive stance in military affairs while gradually trying to limit political damage in the ASEAN framework.
The transition of power in North Korea after the death of Kim Jong-il portends both change and continuity. The heir to power, Kim Jong-un, no doubt relies on advice if not pressure from an inner circle of generals and other senior leaders. So far North Korean policy appears extremely tough, but perhaps that's an attempt to buttress his image amid concerns about his youth and inexperience.
Recent and ongoing shifts in Japan’s military security – both domestic and in relations with other countries – are once again stirring the debate about whether Japan’s security posture is set for radical change. Japan’s recent policies towards North Korea, Myanmar/Burma, Iran and Afghanistan as well as new security issues suggest, however, that change is continuative.
While China seeks stability in and around North Korea. Py-ongyang continues to upset regional stability with missile and nuclear testing. Thus, Bei-jing finds itself in the uncomfortable situation of nursing and feeding an ally who challenges the regional stability China wants.
There was a brief period earlier this year – 16 days to be more precise – when it looked like the death of Kim Jong Il and smooth transition to his successor, number three son Kim Jong Un, would make a breakthrough possible in the long-standing nuclear stalemate with North Korea; then Pyongyang reverted to form. Shortly after pledging to freeze all nuclear and missile tests, Pyongyang announced a satellite launch, thus pulling the rug out from under Washington (and itself) and business as usual (or unusual) returned to the Peninsula.