“We face threats posed by nuclear weapons. Tens of thousands remain in global arsenals, many on high alert…” – UN SecGen Ban Ki-Moon, Jakarta, 21 March 2012
MANILA, ,Philippines — The threat of weapons of mass destruction – which has really never disappeared – has intensified with the flip-flopping of young North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. According to experts, these are still thousands of nuclear weapons, some under the control of mavericks or neophytes like the rulers of Iran and North Korea, respectively.
This means there exists the ever-present danger of “mutually assured destruction,” or mass suicide on the global scale. After all, it really takes the explosion of just one nuclear warhead by a high-strung or desperate Commander-in-Chief to trigger an unceasing series of devastating counter-fires across borders, and thus set the world aflame.
As Reuters reported (25 March), the US is poised to cancel planned aid to North Korea over the latter’s announcement that it will soon launch a long-range missile, thereby “overshadowing” the summit of world leaders committed to nuclear security which President Obama attended in Seoul this week.
Earlier, the US President had bluntly urged China to use its influence to persuade North Korea to refrain from further provocations and for the hermetic state to show its sincerity – if the stalled “Six Party” aid-for-disarmament talks are to re-start.
In North Asia, tensions have escalated in recent weeks after NoKor announced it would launch a long-range rocket in April, which the US believes is intended to test a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.
Obama also warned North Korea directly from the DMZ on the 38th parallel to abandon its nuclear ambitions, declaring that its erratic behavior and war-mongering would not be rewarded with goodwill or material aid.
In Jakarta last 21 March, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed his disappointment with current efforts for nuclear disarmament. He stated: “Billions of dollars are being squandered in modernizing arsends, despite pressing social needs.
“Nuclear weapons do nothing to protect humankind from 21st century threats. Their very existence itself is destabilizing. We must do more to control nuclear materials and crack down on proliferation financing.”
SecGen Ban complained: “There is a growing impatience with the slow pace of nuclear disarmament. I urge the members of the UN Conference on Disarmament to redouble their efforts. It’s unacceptable that during the last 12 years, they have not been able to agree even on a work programme…”
Protecting against further global recession
At the 2012 Jakarta Defense Dialogue last week, FVR discussed the non-military threats to human, national, regional and global security due to economic recession.
He urged Asia-Pacific nations “to protect our still-fragile economies from contagion by future global financial crises. Our region should now actualize preliminary efforts to set up an “Asian Monetary Fund.”
The Japanese proposed such a step during the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Tokyo offered US$100 billion as “seed money” for such a regional reserve system to backstop the IMF (whose policy prescriptions all too often reflect Western bias).
Because of intense Western resistance, the East Asian governments eventually shelved the “Asian Monetary Fund” idea. But, three years later, ASEAN-10 and three powers – China, Japan, and South Korea-signed the “Chiang Mai Initiative” in their meeting in Thailand.
In effect, they agreed to hold each other’s national financial assets in reserve – as the beginning of a cooperative arrangement to strengthen their collective ability to withstand future economic crises.
Our countries also need to work together to shore up the authority of the G-20 economic grouping, which reflects the rise of the “emerging countries” in the global economy.
It is in Asia’s collective interest that the G-20 – of which China, India, South Korea, and Indonesia, are now major players – should become the premier institution for global economic governance – superseding the Western-oriented IMF and World Bank.
In fact, we must do no less than construct a new global balance of economic power, in response to the way the center of global gravity is shifting, away from the Atlantic Ocean toward the Pacific.
Implications of cyber warfare
Very little is still publicly known about “cyber warfare” which can target military organizations, financial institutions, and even private banking accounts and copyright holdings.
In the eyes of experts like William Lynn, US Deputy Defense Secretary, “cyber warfare is the new domain in national security which is just as critical to military operations as land, sea, air, and space.” CW is a form of information warfare through which sabotage, espionage and disruption are conducted against the assets of a country, institution, or individual. Already, according to 2010 US Congressional reports, “key sectors of the US along with other nations are currently at risk, among them public/private facilities, banking/finance, transportation/communications, manufacturing/logistics, and individual assets – all of which are dependent on computers for daily operations.
The theft of intellectual property by hackers, the leaking out of fiction disguised as fact, and the uploading of propaganda and other libelous “blind shots” are now common occurrences. In fact, of boring frequency are reports of losses of bank deposits because of one’s carelessness in the use of ATMs, credit cards, and other documents constaining biometric information.
In May, 2010, the Pentagon set up its new US Cyber Command under the National Security Agency to defend American military networks. The EU has set up the European Network and Information Security Agency, while the UK has organized a cyber-security centre based in its Government Communications Headquarters (equivalent of the NSA). The US Cyber Command, however, is designed only to protect the military, whereas government and corporate infrastructures are primarily the responsibility of the Department of Homeland Security and private companies, respectively.
“The Economist reports that “China has plans of winning informationised wars by the mid-21st century, and notes that Russia, Israel, Iran and North Korea likewise are organizing for cyberwar.”
Constructing a new balance of power
Since the end of WWII, the United States has been the fulcrum of the Asian power balance because of its military presence. Pax Americana (American Peace) has given East Asian states – principally China – the breathing spell to put their houses in order, considering that it is the American market that enabled them to grow their economies at the world’s fastest rate.
Now, our collective task in the Asia-Pacific is to replace the American Peace with a Pax Asia-Pacifica by building a new power structure that integrates emerging powers into the existing regional system. We must construct an Asia-Pacific power balance that acknowledges both America’s claim to being a Pacific power and gives rising China and other emerging powers a role in writing the rules of the new regional order.
Over the foreseeable future, the US will still wield the greatest influence on global affairs – whether militarily, economically, or culturally. But even America cannot act unilaterally any longer, because other poles of economic and military power are rising.
Washington has vowed to refocus American military power on threats rising in the Asia-Pacific. For the US, its military presence on the peripheries of the China Mainland may be a kind of “forward defense.”
But for the Chinese, this may represent a vestige of colonialism; and the humiliation they endured under the great powers for 150 years.
We must expect this state of affairs to generate greater tensions in East Asia. So, too, will China’s extravagant claims to the totality of the South China Sea.
As a framework for dealing legally with these competing claims, we of the Philippines look to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea for the peaceful resolution of such disputes. Basically, UNCLOS declares the high seas as open to all innocent passage, and not subject to the monopolistic claims of any single state.
Our region has many other sources of future tensions. A resurgence of Japan-China historical wounds – the absence of North-South Korea rapport – China-Tibet problems – border disputes – intrusion by resource-hungry neighbors, etc. – any of these could generate dangerous shooting conflicts.
Maintaining The Strategic Balance
For second-tier states like our ASEAN-10, the essential and urgent need is to help maintain the strategic balance, and not to fall under any one great power’s sphere of influence. To his credit, our AFP Chief of Staff Jessie Dellosa did a masterful presentation of Philippine Civil-Military operations at 2012 JIDD.
ASEAN’s basic task must be to organize a concert of powers to regulate and manage military rivalries or arms build-ups through deepened bonds of “caring, sharing and daring” for each other in order to attain enduring peace and sustainable development for all.
Such a concert of powers must take the lead in establishing the institutions, binding commitments and multilateral agreements that are our best hope of channeling the growing influence of emerging countries towards peaceful and humanitarian purposes.
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