US, South Korean Officials: No North Korean Nuclear Test Imminent

Plus, China’s land reclamation, U.S.-Japan defense guidelines, Indian nukes, and more. Defense and security links.

US, South Korean Officials: No North Korean Nuclear Test Imminent
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A few curated defense and security links to start your week:

U.S. Defense Secretary’s arrival in South Korea last week was accompanied by a North Korean missile test. North Korea tends to use missile tests as carefully timed tools of provocation and intimidation. “As it demonstrated once again with its recent missile launches, North Korea is intent on continued provocation,” Carter told the press in Seoul. He and his South Korean counterpart Han Min-koo confirmed that neither side believed a fourth North Korean nuclear test was imminent, despite continuing frequent missile tests. “We haven’t seen or confirmed any signs of an additional North Korean nuclear or [long-range] missile test in the near future,” Han said. “But given their past behavior, when their strategic objectives are not met, there is always the possibility that they will resort to provocations,” he added. The Diplomat‘s Franz-Stefan Gady recently rounded up conflicting reports from U.S. government intelligence agencies and independent open-source analysts that diverge on the extent to which North Korea’s inter-continental ballistic missiles are ready for use. Recently, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command noted that he believed North Korea had successfully miniaturized a nuclear device.

Following the release of satellite imagery gathered by the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Asian Maritime Transparency Initiative in the New York Times last week, there has been much talk about what China’s intentions are with its land reclamation activities in the South China Sea. In Japan, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, after speaking to Gen Nakatani, his Japanese counterpart, noted that the United States is concerned about possible military dimensions to those activities. Writing for The Diplomat, Dingding Chen takes a more benign stance, arguing that China’s land reclamation activities should be no cause for alarm.

Over at Commentary Magazine, Michael Auslin argues that the ongoing U.S.-Japan defense guideline revisions are “really about Japan.” Auslin writes that in light of Japan’s changing defense posture and increasing international cooperation with Asian partners on defense, including “India, Australia, Vietnam, and the Philippines,” it is apparent that Japan is “recasting the whole range of its security relationships to take advantage of widespread regional concern over China’s trajectory.”

Writing in India’s Business Standard, two authors explore the question of whether it matters in real terms for India that it has fewer nuclear weapons than Pakistan. The authors claim that, in reality, a small disparity should be of little concern to New Delhi as long as it can maintain its deterrence potential.

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Also, surprising no one, Hillary Clinton announced her intention to run for the U.S. presidency in 2016. My colleague Katie Putz breaks down Clinton’s previous statements on Asia, particularly from when she was Obama’s secretary of state. Read on to find out what a Clinton presidency might mean for U.S. Asia policy.

If you missed it, I spoke to Flashpoints’ own J. Michael Cole on last week’s podcast for The Diplomat. We discussed Taiwanese politics heading into the January 2016 elections, the rise of civic activism on the island, and the evolving relations between Beijing and Taipei. Michael followed up the podcast with a heavily discussed article on Taiwan’s future titled “The Great Chinese Lie About Taiwan.”