DGAP’s project Risk Reduction and Arms Control in the Asia-Pacific Region takes a differentiated look at the potential for conflict in this region. It aims not only to communicate the conflict risks but also to assess possibilities for reducing them. Scenarios for stability and arms control are developed to contribute to efforts to flesh out recommendations for action by stakeholders in Europe and the Asia-Pacific. The project is funded by the division for nuclear disarmament, arms control, and non-proliferation policy at Germany’s Federal Foreign Office.
The project has begun taking an inventory of military programs and defense strategies in the Asia-Pacific, first through publishing four country reports.
“Indo-Pacific” is a political term and does not represent one defined geographic area. The term “Asia-Pacific” refers to the region that includes at least Australia, China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, and the United States.
Three of the five nuclear powers defined in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) are part of the Asia-Pacific region. Due to modernization programs and the development of new military capabilities – including delivery systems for nuclear warheads – China, Russia, and the United States are competing in a complex, qualitative arms race with each other.
Australia, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan do not possess nuclear weapons and cooperate with the United States militarily to varying degrees. They are also leaders in the procurement or development of strategic weapons systems, among them cruise missiles and ballistic missiles.
North Korea is a major contributor to the spiraling buildup of arms in the Asia-Pacific. It now has several different delivery systems that can carry conventional and nuclear warheads within the region – as well as, theoretically, across the Pacific.
The regional arms spirals are taking place in the context of increasing geopolitical confrontations and deep-seated political mistrust. Therefore, the risk of conflict in the region, including escalation with nuclear weapons, is great.