The Ukraine War and Asian Security
From the Hindu Kush to the South China Sea and the Korean Peninsula, the Indo-Pacific has no shortage of deep historical antagonisms and false claims to sovereignty that could explode into conflict without warning. New multilateral security structures are urgently needed establish meaningful deterrence.
TOKYO – Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has prompted people across the Indo-Pacific region to ask if hidden or openly festering problems here could also lead to open warfare. Following China’s hysterical response to US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August, the answer seems all too clear. From the Hindu Kush to the South China Sea and the Korean Peninsula’s 38th parallel, the Indo-Pacific has no shortage of deep historical antagonisms and false claims to sovereignty that could explode into conflict without warning.
The real question facing leaders across the Indo-Pacific, then, is whether the region can build a structure of peace to prevent national ambitions and hostilities from escalating to open warfare. Much will depend on whether the region’s democratic powers – Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, and the United States – can forge the type of strategic trust needed to make any potential disturber of the peace think twice before initiating hostilities.
In pursuing this objective, the Indo-Pacific has been set back by one of the great political and human tragedies of 2022: former Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzō’sassassination by a lone gunman. Abe had spent the nine years of his two premierships, and the year left to him after he retired from office, contemplating the types of alliances, treaties, and institutional structures that would be needed to provide guideposts and guardrails within which Asia’s inescapable dynamism could be peacefully channeled. He recognized that Asia is not nearly as dense with multilateral organizations and alliances as Europe is, and that such bodies are fundamental to the maintenance of peace and prosperity.