“When we think of the potential theatres where the use of nuclear weapons is possible in the 21st century, it is difficult to go past Asia as the prime region of risk.”
So writes Professor Andrew O’Neil, Director of the Griffith Asia Institute, in the introduction to Asia, the US and Extended Nuclear Deterrence, his new book was launched by the National President of the Australian Institute of International Affairs and Chair of the Griffith Asia Institute Advisory Board, John McCarthy AO FAIIA, on Wednesday.
The new offices of the Griffith Asia Institute, at Griffith’s Nathan campus, were also officially opened prior to the book launch, a fitting opportunity to consider the Institute’s role in promoting greater understanding of our region, and Australia’s place in it, in the 21st century.
Launching the book, Mr McCarthy discussed Professor O’Neil’s analysis and observed the Asia Pacific region as the region with the greatest potential danger of something going badly wrong in terms of nuclear weapons.
He said, however, that due to major trade partnerships involving China, Japan and the US, plus what he called enmeshment factors, he was not of the view that there was “serious potential for war” in this region.
Professor O’Neil describes the Asian region as “a great paradox” – incredibly-well integrated economically yet a fragmented landscape in terms of security.
“The Asian Century is viewed through the Government White Paper as a huge opportunity for Australia,” he says. “The optimism about the Asian Century is very well grounded but there are still potentially dark clouds on the horizon.”
Tensions over competing territorial claims and continuing strategic uncertainty linger, whether it is focused on how China’s emergence will shape the region or North Korea’s volatile behaviour.
“Unfortunately, there is no shortage of pessimism to counter-balance the surge of optimism now associated with our involvement in the region.”
Professor O’Neil believes the Griffith Asia Institute is very well positioned to expand the breadth of its contribution to academic and policy relevant analysis of the complex political, security, and economic relationships across the region.
Current research expertise at the Institute encompasses China, Indonesia, the two Koreas, and the emerging influence of Myanmar. GAI’s research programs focus on traditional and non-traditional security and international business and economics, and the Institute supports study groups focusing on the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, and South Asia.
“We are contributing to a greater understanding of the region among Australians and an understanding of how Australia engages with Asia from a perspective that is highly relevant to policy makers and which embodies the rigour expected of high impact scholarly research.”
Professor O’Neil’s new book takes the investigation into another domain. “Nuclear weapons loom large in Asia’s 21st century landscape,” he writes.
He examines the role of extended nuclear deterrence in Asia and the related risks, shifting the focus from Japan to South Korea, and ultimately asking what Australia wants from the US in this respect.
“Countries that possess nuclear weapons are not the only key players in influencing these dynamics. Non-nuclear states that have security alliances with the dominant nuclear-armed great power in the region, the United States, also play an important role in shaping Asia’s nuclear environment.”
He says the book, not unlike Griffith Asia Institute research, builds a theoretical lens through which the different regional alliances can be examined by policy makers.
“It is a book for its time because it wrestles with a paradox that is pivotal to how the region’s future will be shaped.”