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Published in Security Challenges, 3(1) 2007: 9-15.
It is by now becoming increasingly clear that the Asia-Pacific region will come to dominate the international relations of at least the first half of the Twenty First Century. Not only in the highly visible and often contentious areas of economy and security, but also in areas such as health, communication and environment, the states and peoples of the Asia-Pacific are ever more finding themselves under the international spotlight.
For the middle sized states of the region such as Australia, the challenges to both regional and international security created by such a sudden and forceful ascendency of the Asia-Pacific region will most likely come to define much of their foreign and defence policies in the coming decades. It follows that these challenges should define future planning and strategic thinking now, and the security of the region is therefore receiving much attention from academia, think-tanks, NGOs and government agencies. Due to the continuous North Korean crisis over the last few years, a renewed focus has emerged on nuclear weapons and their associated delivery systems as the spectre of a nuclear arms race in the Asia-Pacific region has been raised, particularly in comments in the media.
Whether this is a short-term prospect related to North Korea’s nuclear brinkmanship (made particularly problematic by its recent nuclear test) that is likely to be circumvented by careful diplomacy, or whether the Asia-Pacific region really is set to become the new nuclear fault line of the twenty-first century in the way Europe was for the duration of the Cold War, could be central to understanding the security dynamics of the region in the forseeable future