Danger ahead for Australia as Asia’s long peace ends

Danger ahead for Australia as Asia’s long peace ends, by Alan Dupont.

The latest volley of North Korean ballistic missiles, one of which flew over northern Japan, has pushed tensions on the Korean peninsula to a perilous tipping point where war is no longer unimaginable. …

Geopolitics is back with a vengeance after an extended post-Cold War hiatus largely devoid of interstate conflict….

US-Russia relations are the worst they have been since the height of the Cold War, highlighted by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s extraordinary July decision to expel 755 US diplomats and technical staff, the largest single mass expulsion of diplomats by Russia or the US.

The early goodwill between US President Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping has dissipated as differences re-emerge over North Korea, the South China Sea, Taiwan and trade.

On the frigid Doklam plateau adjacent to tiny Bhutan, Chinese and Indian troops engaged in a tense two-month border confrontation that risked triggering a rerun of their 1962 border war with potentially far graver consequences since both states now have nuclear weapons.

What should concern Australian policymakers is that the long peace in Asia is drawing to a precipitate close. The last significant regional conflict was in 1979, when Beijing sent hundreds of thousands of troops across its southern border to “teach Vietnam a lesson” for occupying Cambodia and driving out the murderous China-aligned Khmer Rouge.

In the following three decades, Asia experienced unprecedented prosperity. Regional economies boomed and geopolitical rivalries were muted. To paraphrase China’s former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, to get rich was not only glorious, it was also infectious. …

Many regarded this lengthy outbreak of peace and stability as the new normal, a signal that the region’s bloody conflicts and fractious past had been consigned to the dustbin of history. However, history’s real lesson is that rising wealth and power eventually lead to increased rivalry, competition and conflict.

hat-tip Stephen Neil