Geopolitical risks growing in East Asia

Geopolitical risks are growing as China and North Korea push ahead with nuclear weapons programmes, according to a regional expert.

In South Korea, anxiety about the effectiveness of a so-called nuclear umbrella guaranteed by the US has increased calls for the nation to “go nuclear,” according to Narushige Michishita, a professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies and an expert on East Asian security.

Michishita, speaking to Nikkei Asia,  elaborated on the reasons for the persistently strong calls for nuclear arms in South Korea:

“Reservations about the US, which is an alliance partner of South Korea, is a key underlying reason. A considerable number of South Koreans doubt if the nuclear umbrella, though guaranteed by the US, would actually work in an emergency.”

“Another reason is the growing assertiveness of some liberal thinkers,” he added. “They want to strengthen their presence in the world by seeking conciliation between the two Koreas while fending off involvement from foreign countries. They think that if South Korea goes nuclear, it can conduct diplomacy on its own without speculating on Washington’s potential stance.”

Even without US opposition to such a move, he said, South Korea would not be in a position to arm itself with nuclear weapons. 

“But I get the impression it is striving to advance its technological development as close as possible to being able to deliver a nuclear capability. For example, it has successfully conducted a submarine-launched ballistic missile test.”