Japan’s growing nuclear dilemma
The security environment in East Asia is becoming increasingly unstable, with China rising, North Korea threatening nuclear war and the U.S. seemingly less willing to support allies. Japan is in a difficult predicament, with a constitution curtailing its military abilities and a public strongly against nuclear weapons. But the government wants to abolish those limits, and popular opinion might change once the nuclear arms race in East Asia accelerates.
The contours of a future Middle East emerge
Events are moving fast in the Middle East. The hoped-for rapprochement between Russia and the U.S. that could bring an end to the war in Syria appears to have collapsed. Growing tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia could spark a war at any moment. But the most explosive issue for this region of minorities is the prospect of independence for Iraqi Kurdistan.
Mongolia’s role in security on the Korean Peninsula
Mongolia might be one of the only countries with which North Korea could have a normal conversation: the countries have historically had friendly ties. And Mongolia has hosted negotiations between North Korea and Japan, for example, before. However, a wide gap remains between Pyongyang’s goals and the West’s. Until the sides come to the negotiating table, Mongolia will play its own role: showcasing an example of a country in Northeast Asia with communist roots that achieved security without pursuing nuclear weapons.
Russia writes new rules for post-Cold War rivalry with NATO
Russia has been honing its conventional and nuclear forces for Hybrid Cold War confrontations with potential enemies, especially NATO. An important role in its new strategic toolbox is reserved for “safety valves”: Russia’s doctrine of first use of tactical nuclear weapons and the increased mobility of its conventional forces. At present, NATO has no effective countermeasures for either, dangerously adding to international instability.
GIS Dossier: Nuclear energy
The 2011 Fukushima disaster brought nuclear energy development programs around the world to a screeching halt – temporarily. Though Germany plans to fully phase out nuclear power production, Japan has brought several reactors back online, and other countries have restarted construction on nuclear plants. These developments have had huge geopolitical effects: Germany’s fossil fuel imports from Russia have grown, while China has found an opening to increase its sway on four continents by financing nuclear projects.
What Russia gains from militarizing the Arctic
Russia’s military buildup in the Arctic continues apace, complete with a state-of-the-art forward base not far from Norway. The moves are meant to protect strategic nuclear submarines and tactical nuclear weapons – and put NATO in a tight spot. The alliance has yet to come up with a clear, decisive response.
China’s options for ending North Korea’s nuclear program
If the North Korean regime continues to develop its nuclear strike capabilities, South Korea and Japan may feel compelled to acquire their own weapons of mass destruction, while China will lose its strategic edge in northeast Asia. Beijing has a few options to prevent such a scenario.
North Korea beggars and destabilizes Manchuria
China’s northeastern provinces of Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang, known to English speakers as Manchuria, used to be Asia’s industrial powerhouse. These days they are economic laggards because they neighbor North Korea. No one is eager to invest in an area that is under constant threat from weapons of mass destruction.
Scenarios for the stalemate over North Korea
Kim Jong-un continues to provoke the international community, while Beijing and Washington seem powerless to stop the development of North Korea’s nuclear program. The complex web of interests and commitments in the region makes it hard to see a way to defuse the crisis, but it also seems unlikely that Mr. Kim would willingly lead his country down a path that would certainly end his regime.
Kim Jong-un’s potentially fatal strategy
North Korea's military provocations have goaded the U.S. into one of the largest concentrations of naval force since World War II. The move may ratchet up pressure on Kim Jong-un to moderate his behavior, especially if China joins in. But it also brings the world closer to a potentially disastrous nuclear exchange.