East Asia

A fragile peace has broken out on the Korean peninsula, but trends elsewhere in the region are more worrying

This time last year, war on the Korean peninsula was a serious possibility. Then everything changed. The Singapore Summit secured Donald Trump's place in history as the first US president to meet a North Korean leader. For now, the world is a safer place, but the nuclear issue is far from solved. Less dramatic but as important are developments in the Taiwan Strait. Beijing has launched a multifaceted campaign to intimidate Taiwan and diminish its international status, conducting military exercises and poaching Taipei's remaining diplomatic partners. Yet Washington is showing its most overt support for Taiwan in decades. Taiwan may be on course to becoming a China-US flashpoint again. In contrast, China-Japan relations have warmed after a long chill, but only on the surface. Tokyo regards China's rise as the greatest threat to Japan's security and crafts its diplomatic and security strategies in response. Closer cooperation with Washington is more difficult with Trump in the White House, so Japan seeks partners elsewhere, foremost in India and Australia. China, meanwhile, clearly intends to play a greater role in international affairs in the years ahead. Even while locked in costly trade disputes with Washington, Beijing perceives a window of opportunity to assume more global leadership.

  • Is North Korea serious about changing direction, or will the Korean peninsula relapse into tension and threat?
  • Can the thaw in China-Japan relations last, or are the two on a long-term collision course?
  • Will the Taiwan Strait return as the most dangerous flashpoint in Asia?
  • Can China convince its neighbours that it is friend, not foe -- or is confrontation inevitable?


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