RIETI Report January 2003

Is Asia Safer in 2003?

Greetings from RIETI

This year is the year of sheep. We hope this year will be as peaceful as sheep is like. Speaking of sheep, the world was shocked with the news of the birth of a cloned human baby at the end of 2002, not a cloned sheep, Dolly. It is uncertain whether this news is true. Anyway, RIETI will not clone but generate original and diversified research results in 2003 too!

RIETI Report interviewed experts on Asia whether Japan will be safer place in 2003.

SPECIAL

After September 11, the international security environment, including in Asia, changed dramatically. Regional conflicts triggered by diverse and complicated factors, such as ethnicity and religion, were exacerbated, and terrorist attacks have occurred frequently. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is at a very uncertain state. We witnessed a positive movement toward detente on the Korean peninsula, as the Japan-North Korea summit meeting was realized in September 2002, but the situation does not allow optimism. With this as background, RIETI Report interviewed four specialists who visited RIETI attending the RIETI symposium "Asian Security Environment after the 9.11 Terrorism" held in December 2002, on the security landscape in Asia.

interview

North East Asia: Benjamin L. Self , the Henry L. Stimson Center (BS)
Central Asia: Mehrdad Haghayeghi , Southwest Missouri State University (MH)
South Asia: Kanti Bajipai , Jawaharlal Nehru University (KB)
Southeast Asia: Derek da Cunha , the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (DC)

RIETI Report (RR): Do you think there will be improvements in diplomatic normalization between North Korea and Japan nd the US?

BS: NK survives in part by being unpredictable in its policy choices. Thus, it is possible that they make sudden sets of concessions to achieve normalization and economic stimulus involving cooperation from Japan to be removed from the terrorist state list of the US and to be open to multilateral development aid from the Asian Development Bank. It is also possible that Bush administration will be less threatening in its rhetoric toward NK. Threatening may only push NK toward a more belligerent attitude. Giving them concessions does not help either. The US can at least stop being so confrontational and focus on the strategy of benign containment as opposed to hawkish engagement.

RR: Since 9.11, the US strategic alliance with Uzbekistan has intensified. How this alliance will affect the security environment in Central Asia, and what will like the relations between Central Asia and the US, Russia, China and EU respectively?

MH: With the US strategic alliance with Uzbekistan, it is reasserting its domination that it had before the Russian and Soviet rules. That created friction between Uzbekistan and other countries who now have political identities. Russia has always been a major power. Although Russian influence is waning, it is being reinvigorated because of the terrorist attacks and its desire to prevent losing ground for the US presence there. China is trying to increase its sphere of influence in Central Asia for natural resources or trade, but also for military, security and defense. Central Asians have been historically suspicious of Chinese intentions. Now because China is a rising power and because of its proximity, Central Asia has to balance Chinese interests and Russian interests and since 9.11, against US interests. EU is involved but its role is much more benign. It is actually constructive role particularly through the OSCE. Yet, the relations with Russia, China and the US will dominate in the Central Asia.

RR: How did 9.11 and the US military presence in South Asia affect the security environment in the region? How will the relations among the countries, especially the India-Pakistan relations change in 2003?

KB: The keyword in describing the security in South Asia will be "terrorism" as in 2002. Despite the US military presence in the region after 9.11, a series of terrorist attacks occurred. In 2001 and 2002, Kashmiri extremists attacked many symbolic sites in India including Srinagar and New Delhi. India also reacted acutely. As a result, the India-Pakistan relations deteriorated to a highly volatile situation in summer of 2002. We will likely continue to see this unpredictable dangerous condition in 2003. In other countries too, the political extremists became very active. In Bangladesh, right-wing Islamic forces are on the rise. In Nepal, political extremists bring on violent insurgency. In Sri Lanka, the peace process is in India's interest but the legitimization of the LTTE (Liberation Tiger for Tamil Eeelam) could well lead to crisis with Colombo as well. The US presence after 9/11 did not help pacify this turbulent zone, but indeed worsened the India-Pakistan relations greatly. The political extremists in the region became more active than ever.

RR: Southeast Asia has been described as the second front in the war against terrorism. Yet, most Southeast Asian states are modernizing and expanding the kind of military hardware for conventional threats, rather than for the unconventional threat of terrorism. Can ASEAN continue to share a common regional objective?

DC: The issues are at two-level. At one level, ASEAN is reinvigorated because of the campaign against the terrorism. To that extent ASEAN is asked by the US particularly to track down the funding to Al Qaeda. Security agencies of Southeast Asian countries are certainly sharing the intelligence to monitor. I think that all the security related issues are a silver lining for ASEAN. When one country introduces new weapon systems in the region, it establishes the new benchmark of military power which then other countries match. Military buildup has its own dynamics as I would say that power has deterrence.

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