Asia Security: Unknowns Dominate Outlook

The East-West Wire is a news, commentary, and analysis service provided by the East-West Center in Honolulu. Any part or all of the Wire content may be used by media with attribution to the East-West Center or the person quoted. To receive the East-West Center Wire, please contact John Lewis at (808) 944-7204 or

HONOLULU (June 12) – While conceding that the present security situation in the Asia Pacific region is relatively stable, a group of over 100 security analysts taking part in an extensive East-West Center survey released today see the longer-term outlook (over the next 5 to 10 years) as dominated by a number of uncertainties and unknowns.

The 2007 Asia Pacific Security Survey points to the future regional role of China as the most significant question mark. An almost equally uncertain factor, according to the analysts, is the reaction of the United States to China's rise. Further, most of the 105 analysts from Northeast, Southeast and South Asia as well as Oceania, North America and Europe believe the U.S. will regard China as a threat. (However, the American participants in the survey were the least convinced on this point.)

As in the 2006 survey, the North Korean nuclear issue was an important concern.  However, perhaps influenced by February's Six-Party Talks agreement, a majority of the analysts say the situation has improved over the past year and that they are generally confident that further progress, though uneven, will be made. That not withstanding, the analysts still rate tensions of the Korean Peninsula as one of the major long-term uncertainties.

Survey participants generally consider that the U.S. role will remain very important to overall regional security for the foreseeable future. They also believe that the impact of the Iraq experience on America's willingness and ability to be involved in the Asia Pacific as well as the region's acceptance of an American role will only be a short-term constraint.  

One contrast with the 2006 survey is that concern over a possible U.S. withdrawal from the region has disappeared as a significant issue. Nevertheless, there continues to be broad concern over possible U.S. unilateralism.  And perhaps connected with this lingering concern, in another shift from 2006, the 2007 group expressed stronger agreement that in the event of reunification the Korean government should request the withdrawal of the U.S. forward presence in that country. (However, those most immediately affected, the South Korean participants, still tended to disagree with this proposition.)

As in 2006, there is a broad consensus among the analysts that it is appropriate for the international community to take action in cases where the local government has lost control of the situation or is contributing to it.  However, the group is reluctant to support the more forceful responses -- military intervention or even strong sanctions -- in most situations.  Notably, a clear majority of the analysts assess that the U.S. "War on Terrorism" has actually increased the danger of terrorism in the Asian region.  Presumably reinforced by this conclusion, a large majority believes that any future military responses to terrorism should be authorized by the United Nations.

Finally, while the analysts tended to focus on more traditional, military threats and issues in the near-term period, in their longer-term assessment non-traditional issues (environment, disease, natural disasters, etc.) assumed a more important place in the roster of uncertainties and unknowns that could have a crucial impact on broadly defined human security in the region.

Other issues covered in the survey include the terrorism threat and response, and prospects for regional security cooperation.  

The full text of the East-West Center's 2007 Asia Pacific Security Survey is available online at the East-West Center website (

For more information please contact Richard Baker, special assistant to the East-West Center's president, at +(808) 944-7371 or via email at

For daily news on the Pacific Islands, see For links to all East-West Center media programs, fellowships and services, see




This is an East-West Wire, copyright East-West Center