Northeast Asia experts have, for several years, been confronting an enormous amount of political turmoil in a region where the prospects for further nuclearization—and even large-scale war—appear to have increased dramatically. As North Korea continues to demonstrate its nuclear weapons capabilities through increasingly provocative actions, nongovernmental expert groups such as the Pugwash Conference series—which last convened in Astana, Kazakhstan, in August 2017—have understandably narrowed their focus to interpreting North Korea’s conduct and evaluating how regional state actors should respond. The growing danger posed by North Korea’s nuclear program, however, only further underscores the importance of strengthening regional relations more broadly as a counterforce against destabilizing events. The list of thorny and long-standing issues among China, Japan, and South Korea includes addressing historic grievances, counteracting nationalist political forces, US involvement in regional missile defense systems, and regional use of plutonium and other civil nuclear materials. Groups like Pugwash might, in fact, make the greatest positive impact by utilizing their backchannel diplomatic capabilities in these subject areas, which remain no less complicated and no less important to regional stability in 2018.
Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 2nd March 2018 read more »