The Platform

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. (KCNA)

Throughout East Asia, security dilemmas will continue to test the limits of strategic patience and deterrence.

As much as China’s Xi Jinping is hopeful that North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un will rein in his provocations, China will still rely on Pyongyang as a powerful bargaining tool to extract concessions from the West. Yoon Suk-yeol, South Korea’s newly inaugurated president, has tried to rein in Kim Jong-Un with early forceful deterrence.

In giving the ultimatum to Kim Jong-Un to give up his nuclear brinkmanship in exchange for long-term economic support, Yoon Suk-yeol has tried to shift to a different dimension in coercing and coaxing his northern neighbor to change course, while trying to distance himself from the failed approaches of his predecessors. Yoon Suk-yeol realizes that this is the only approach that has a chance of success.

Xi Jinping realizes that for as much as Kim Jong-Un will be able to delay and distract Tokyo and Washington, Kim Jong-Un risks losing in the long term. As the explosion of COVID numbers in North Korea illustrates, the North Korean model is just not sustainable.

Across the Sea of Japan, Tokyo has started a calculated response to the ongoing and worsening threats from both Pyongyang and Beijing. Breaking with his predecessors, Fumio Kishida, Japan’s prime minister, is keen to ensure that Tokyo remains aligned with the United States. Increasingly assertive postures by the Kremlin in disputed regions have fueled Kishida’s hawkish approach to Russia, but also to China and North Korea. Fumio Kishida’s Southeast Asia tour last month underscored another strategic maneuver by Tokyo in achieving the aim of cementing economic ties.

With warnings not to be used as pawns by Washington, Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, has warned ASEAN and regional powers that the increasing push by the West to choose sides is unacceptable.

As much as the South China Sea and the region remain the paramount chokeholds and vital geostrategic concerns for Beijing, Taiwan remains the ultimate red line. Recent high-profile visits by U.S. lawmakers to Taiwan again invited anger from Beijing, which resorted to military drills during the visits.

The saber-rattling and countermeasures in the escalating security dilemma in the region encapsulate the next chapter of contextualizing the potential risks and strategic maneuvers by the dominant regional players amidst changing impact of deterrence measures. The stakes have never been higher.

Collins Chong Yew Keat has been serving in University of Malaya for more than 9 years. His areas of focus include strategic and security studies, America’s foreign policy and power projection, regional conflicts and power parity analysis and has published various publications on numerous platforms including books and chapter articles. He is also a regular contributor in providing op-eds and analytical articles for both the local and international media on various contemporary global issues and regional affairs since 2007.