International Relations > Regions
The Asia-Pacific is one of today's most dynamics and interesting macro-regions; and it is likely its importance will further increase in the future, maybe to the point of becoming the most important area of the globe. It represents a significant share of the world's GDP, trade volume, and population. It is home of huge developed economies like Japan, China and South korea; but also of fast-growing ones such as Vietnam or Indonesia. Again, many of the world's leading firms are based or operate there.
Still, the Asia-Pacific is also home of regional rivalries and strategic challenges that threaten its stability as well as that of the whole international scene.
The Asia-Pacific is marked by a strong US military and political presence; which is a source of tensions with China, America's main competitor both in regional and global terms. The PRC is still growing economically and at the same time it is strengthening up its military and taking a more assertive stance to protect its interest. Beijing is involved in the main territorial disputes in the region, namely the one in the South China Sea with several South-East Asian states, the one over the Senkaku / Diaoyu islands with Japan, without forgetting the particular and decade-long diatribe about the sovereigny over Taiwan; and all such situations have the potential to spark a conflict that may well escalate. Moreover, China's rise is made more difficult by a series of challenges of demographic, economic, and political nature; and their developments will determine the impact the role the PRC will have in the upcoming future.
Another longstanding major probelm for regional and global stability is the situation in the Korean peninsula, where reunification is still far from being achieved and where the North's nuclear programme is causing concern in among its neighbors and the international community in general; which may as well result in an all-out war whose consequences would be serious.
On its part, South-East Asia is the home of many rapidly-developing economies and the stage of a regional integration experiment (ASEAN) whose success is still limited; but it is also a zone marked by ethnic and religious tensions as well as by great power competition due to its strategic role of connection between the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Finally, the region is witnessing a rise in natioanlist discourse, that combined with the aforementioned disputes and a generalized military build-up formes a dangerous mix.
It is therefore essential for political decision-makers and firms to understand this region in order to properly face its challenges and manage the subsequent risks.
The Asia-Pacific is the macro-region I know better, as it was my regional focus during my Master's degree.
On this page, you will find reports on the international issues regarding the area as a whole, or involving different regional actors.
See on the right for the papers focusing on a specific country.
The Geopolitical Impact of Climate Change in Vietnam
Climate change is not only an environmental matter. It also has major security implications. In this article I examine this issue by focusing on Vietnam's case.
Vietnam is among the countries to be more affected by its effect; and in the coming years it will suffer more and more from phenomena like rising sea level, extreme weather and floods. Apart the already considerable environmental and economic problems that this will bring, there are also notable humanitarian and political consequences. The deterioration of living conditions may lead to a migration crisis and delegitimize the rule of the CPV, thus bringing political instability.
Combined with the overexploitation of maritime resources, this could also cause a surge in piracy in the contested waters of the South China Sea, an essential seaway for international trade; and could provide China a justification for extending its (military) presence in the area.
Full article here (only for Geopolitical Monitor subscribers).
Beyond Economics: The Political Risks of a US-China Trade War
The prospect of a global-scale trade war initiated by the Trump administration against the EU and especially China has sparked an intense debate. But while most analysts and politicians focus on the economic consequences this could have, fewer have considered the potential political fallout.
In the article on I examine this aspect by applying a theoretical model presented by M. Sahlins in his book Stone Age Economics. Trade is not only about exchanging goods, it's also a social activity that can be assimilated to one of the three forms of reciprocity that Sahlins identifies, namely the one he defines as balanced reciprocity: an impersonal yet peaceful exchange. But if states start clashing over trade, there is a risk that they will shift towards negative reciprocity, whose characteristic activity is war.
Full article here (only for Geopolitical Monitor subscribers)
Photo credit: Flickr, modified
Geopolitical Realities Threaten to Derail Trump-Kim Summit
The recent diplomatic developments concerning North Korea, and especially the announcement of a Trump-Kim meeting, have caused much debate among analysts. Many media presented it as a turning point towards a negotiated solution of the nuclear issue and of the division of the Peninsula, explaining it as a success of tight sanctions (a discourse also heard at the political level).
But if we look at the past, we see that Pyongyang has constantly been using its nuclear programme also as a mean to obtain international economic aid in the logic of regime preservation. As such, it is my opinion that North Korea's offer to negotiate is consistent with its grand strategy, and does not represent any "revolution" of sort. Also, the upcoming talks (provided they ultimately take place) will hardly solve anything, because the geopolitical reality of Korea remains virtually unaltered, with the only relevant difference being that Pyongyang now has nuclear weapons. Time will tell what will happen, but do not expect a brakthrough from these meetings.
Full article here (only for Geopolitical Monitor subscribers).
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore, Flickr, modified.
A ‘Preliminary Agreement’: US, China And Solution To North Korean Nuclear Crisis
The North Korean nuclear issue remains one of the most delicate on the global scene. Even though the recent diplomatic opening between the US and the DPRK has easened tension to some degree, the problem is far from being definitively solved.
In this article I argue that the only way to solve the issue is a coordinated US-PRC action; but this demands a "preliminary agreement" between the two powers that must determine the future geopolitical order in Korea in case the North collapses and the Peninsula is reunited. In particular, this deal must rassure Beijing that reunification will not represent a threat to Chinese national security.
Full article available here on Eurasia Review.
Photo credit: Naples Herald
The Six-Party Talks: Analysis of an International Negotiation
The Six Party Talks (SPT) were a series of international negotiations taking place between 2003 and 2009 with the aim of solving the North Korean nuclear issue. They took their name from the fact that they involved the six main actors in the region: the United States, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia. All in all, they ultimately resulted in a failure, as Pyongyang kept on developing nuclear weapons and managed to obtain them in following years.
In this paper, I examine the SPT by providing a brief historical contextualization and then by applying five different analytical approaches, concentrating on the positions of the US and the DPRK:
- Behavioral: it focuses on the personality of negotiatiors; in this case I evaluate how the mindframes of George W. Bush and Kim Jong-il influenced the SPT.
- Cultural: it assesses the influence that culture-specific factors have on negotiations; I mainly examined the role of the North Korean Juche ideology and of American neocons thinking.
- Processual: this analytical framework emphasizes how the negotiations are organized and how they take place.
- Structural: deriving from the Realist school in IR, it concentrates on the existing balance of power between the parties; I show that the particular military situation existing in Korea (where the US-RoK military superiority is balanced by the DPRK's ability to rapidly inflict massive damage to the South, notably Seoul) led to a stall in the SPT where no side could force its positions on the other.
- Strategic: it applies game theory models to explain the negotiation's outcome, and here I show that, in a typical case of prisoner's dilemma, both parties acted to ensure their own security thus leading to a situation where both were threatened.
I conclude my analysis arguing that the SPT failed because of the deadlocked military equilibrium and the strategic decisions of the US and DPRK.
Note that I wrote this paper as a task for the course in International Negotiations at Université Catholique de Louvain during my Master's program. This version is sligthly different from the one I submitted back then: I added pictures and I made some minor corrections to the text, which in any case remains almost identical.
Click here to read the report.