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May 30, 2017

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Commentary > China Post > Leif-Eric Easley
When considering how South Korea will respond to the sinking of one of its naval vessels in disputed waters near North Korea, most commentaries stress the lack of military options.
Many explanations are in circulation about the motivations and implications of North Korea's nuclear and missile tests.
Multipolarity describes a global distribution of power where major countries share roughly equal influence.
After the Kuomintang (KMT) rout of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Taiwan's legislative elections in January, international observers are asking how Taiwan may soon reorient its foreign policy. Both candidates for Taiwan's March 22 presidential contest have pledged to rebuild trust with the United States.
Lee Myung-bak won the South Korean presidential election on Dec. 19, raising expectations for Seoul's relations with Tokyo and Washington. Lee's victory guarantees a change in tone, but increased cooperation with Japan and the United States will not be automatic. While South Korea assembles its new administration, Japan and the U.S. should also prepare for upgrading relations.
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun's Oct. 2-4 visit to North Korea and Chinese President Hu Jintao's report at the 17th Party Congress on Oct. 15 notably included attempts at applying "soft power." Roh proposed further economic cooperation and a peace regime with North Korea.
New leadership is coming to power across the Asia-Pacific. Incoming prime ministers and presidents are of interest not only to the populations they represent, but also to people of other countries concerned with how the policies of new leaders will affect them. In all likelihood, the foreign policies of the next administrations in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States will not be drastically different from those of today.
Security concerns in East Asia do not exist in a vacuum, but it is difficult to know how closely issues interact. United States reliance on China in dealing with North Korea has allegedly caused Washington to take a more pro-Beijing stance in its relations with Taipei. Recent Japanese elections, leading to an opposition Democratic Party takeover of the Upper House, will allegedly decrease Tokyo's commitment to the U.S.-Japan alliance, and hence diminish the alliance's capacity to promote stability across the Taiwan Strait. Both these theories deserve further investigation.
Reciprocal visits by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have lifted Sino-Japan relations out of a difficult period. U.S.-China relations are of growing international importance and now better managed with high-level dialogues on economic and security issues.
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