Asia, the continent of growth, filled with regional tensions

Author : Candice LABIDI.

Asia, continent of innovation and new economies, is now the center of global economy. “The main asset of this region is to be a great machine that creates wealth, whereas the European golden age is over” assured Kishore Mahbubani, former ambassador of Singapore for the United Nations. Asian countries increase their foreign investments, their research and development investments and their infrastructures investments. However, in Asia tensions are growing and jeopardize the continent’s development.

Senkaku-Diaoyu islands, dispute between Japan and China…

The Land of the Rising sun and the Middle Kingdom are in conflict regarding the Senkaku-Diaoyu archipelago, located at the North-Est of Taiwan in the East China Sea. Since XIXe century, they belong to Japan. During the Sino-Japanese war (1894-1895), Japan won the Okinawa territory and the Islands over China. It is only during the 1970’s, they became subject to a conflict between the two countries. In 1968, the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East declared the zone is full of hydrocarbons and in fishing resources which pick the interest of China and Taiwan. Beijing claimed the Islands belong to China. According to the government, the existence of the Islands, called Diaoyu in China, can be traced back to the XIV-XVIe century thanks to the literature of the era. Of course, Japan swept aside this argument by assuring there were no Chinese occupation at that time. China, first importing country of hydrocarbons, wants absolutely these islands to be more independent. But Japan, a country with very little natural resources, is in the same situation.

More than a territorial conflict, the two countries are rivals for the regional leadership in Asia. China’s reclamations are more threatening than before. Chinese government built artificial islands to reinforce its legitimacy to claim the archipelago. Added to that, China does a lot of military intrusions in the Japanese water. Japan feared a military presence more and more important near the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands. At the beginning of January 2018, Japanese authority spotted a submarine of 110 meters with torpedoes and missiles which is against the “internationals rules” reminded defense Japanese general secretary, Itsunori Onodera.

South Korea/ North Korea, tension in the peninsula…

Between the two Korea, at war for 64 years, we can easily say that in the last two years the relations have been deteriorating. However, is a « détente » possible in 2018?

9th January 2018, the two countries accepted to open the dialogue in Panmunjom, a broader village where the armistice had been signed in 1953. Discussions were held by Cho Myoung-gyon, South-Korea’s Unification secretary and Ri Son-gwon, North Korea’s President of the commission for peaceful reunification. The main subject was the participation of North Korea at the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang this February. “Let’s offer to the people a precious gift for New Year. It is said that a travel undertaken by two lasts longer than a solo travel” said North Korea’s representative. South Korea took advantage of the situation to ask for a reunion of the separated family after the Korean War on 16th February.

Kim Jung-un declared that after the Olympic games, he was willing to start a dialogue on the problems in the peninsula. Also, he told that the military phone line has been reactivated on the other side of the broader (It was closed in 2016 after the shut down of Kaesong Industrial Area). In sign of good faith, South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in postponed military trials with the US after the Olympic Games.

This rapprochement by North Korea can be explained by economical and strategic reasons. After the nuclear trials of 2017, the UN heavily punished the country and North Korean economy was damaged. However, the dialogue is not welcomed as good news for everyone. For instance, the Freedom Party in South Korea, criticizes this encounter by accusing North Korea to do that only to keep away Seoul from Washington and because they think it will only be words that won’t led to any change. However, President Moon Jae-in declared is was not a “simple dialogue like in the past and he will seek peace based on important defense capacities”.

It is true that Asian economies are empowering including because of the “Emerging” Asia (Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines) but these tensions between the main countries led to a decreasing in growth.

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