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Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have vexed US policy makers for generations. But for American citizens, problems of stability on the peninsula, and North Korean threats to its neighbors were problems over there. Not anymore. North Korea’s dual advances in nuclear weapons and intercontinental delivery systems are edging the situation toward profound. Ever since the term proliferation of weapons of mass destruction entered the lexicon, we have dreaded the idea of a dangerous, wildly unpredictable state—seemingly impervious to sanction—acquiring the capability to hold the US homeland hostage. Yet, that time is approaching. North Korea may be a few years off, as it still needs to perfect its long-range ballistic missiles and miniaturize a nuclear warhead on its cone, but strategic thresholds have been crossed, and we appear no closer to solving the problem.

 
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It is no secret that China and the United States have different opinions about world order. South Korea, meanwhile, is caught in the middle of these two great powers who want to push their weight around the global stage. South Korea has always sought to balance relations between the two countries, but it may be forced to choose.

 
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Security challenges in East Asia are becoming acute. North Korea is developing a missile-deliverable nuclear weapon, and the long-term stability of the Pyongyang regime is questionable. Taiwan, which Beijing claims as part of Chinese territory, is about to have a presidential election in which a candidate from a pro-independence party is the front-runner. China has also become increasingly assertive in its territorial disputes with Japan and several Southeast Asian countries. Meanwhile, Japan's leaders are attempting to redefine the role Japan plays in regional security affairs. Indeed, Japan's legislature recently enacted revisions to the country's national security laws that would loosen limitations on the use of Japan's armed forces, and the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pledged to increase defense spending.
US leadership, undergirded by the US military, has played a central role in ensuring the stability necessary to produce remarkable economic and political transformations in Northeast Asia. More specifically, American commitments to defend its allies in Northeast Asia, with nuclear weapons if necessary, have deterred major power war, prevented regional conflict, stemmed nuclear proliferation, and limited the use of coercion. Over time, however, US security commitments to the region have become increasingly interwoven within a more comprehensive and multifaceted fabric, with US conventional and nuclear forces still at their foundation, but supplemented by allied capabilities, commercial interdependence, and evolving regional institutions.

But US extended deterrence in East Asia—an essential ingredient to sustain regional peace and prosperity—is increasingly under strain. Revitalizing the strength of US security commitments is therefore a first-order task in Washington’s Asia policy. Two new publications by the Atlantic Council's Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security explore how the United States can adapt its military posture and prepare for future challenges to deterrence in Asia:

The Future of US Extended Deterrence in Asia to 2025, by Brent Scowcroft Center Senior Fellow Robert A. Manning, examines the past, present, and future of US extended deterrence in Asia and outlines how the United States, along with its allies and partners in the region, can counter China's growing military and economic power. The report covers a number of future concerns for the US-South Korea alliance, the US-Japan alliance, and new threats to deterrence in the cyber and space domains.

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China’s new leadership takes office amid growing questions about China’s internal direction and its assertive foreign policy. Conventional wisdom portrays China in the mode of Sun Tzu, far-sighted strategists looking decades ahead. But thus far, it appears that China’s leaders have strategic goals, but no apparent strategy for how to achieve them. This Atlantic Council brief, authored by Robert A. Manning and Banning Garrett, assesses the challenges China faces–worsening pollution, corruption, and a growth model that needs sweeping reforms and examines the difficulties Beijing faces in addressing them.

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In an Atlantic Council issue brief released today, former US Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr. argues that a new economic framework—reflecting the reality that China is no longer a “developing” economy but an increasingly established one—is needed to continue positive US-China economic relations and put the two economies on a path toward a more mutually beneficial structure.

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Banning Garrett, Director of the Asia Program and the Strategic Foresight Project at the Atlantic Council, and Patrick deGategno, Associate Director of the Asia Program, recently authored a piece titled "The Second Wave of Wireless Communications: A Game Changer for Global Development?"

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