ASEAN not imminently threatened by N.Korea

In this picture taken on July 10, 2012, a young member of the Korean Church Coalition for North Korea Freedom, holds a US flag during a White House vigil at Lafayette Park in Washington, DC, United States. (AFP Photo/Karen Bleier)

US President Donald Trump said on Saturday that "only one thing will work" with North Korea as he acknowledged the fact that diplomatic efforts in the past have consistently failed. According to AFP (Agence France-Presse), relations between North Korea and the US have drastically plummeted due to the recent war of words between Trump and Kim Jong Un, which began after new sanctions were imposed by the United Nations.

"Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid," Trump tweeted.

It "hasn't worked, agreements violated before the ink was dry, makings fools of US negotiators. Sorry, but only one thing will work!"

This "should have been handled 25 years ago, it should have been handled 10 years ago, it should haven been handled during the Obama administration," he added.

Earlier in the week, Trump posed for photos with military leaders. He said that the gathering with the military leaders might represent “the calm before the storm."

Will Southeast Asia be affected?

The Southeast Asian region is no stranger to war and conflict. With tensions between the US and North Korea running at an all time high, the region might be pulled into yet another conflict involving two or more global superpowers after the Cold War and World War II. The only difference this time is that nuclear weapons might come into play.

While relations between North Korea and the US have soured in recent months, Malaysia's diplomatic ties with the communist state have also suffered a blow due to the recent murder of Un's half brother, Kim Jong Nam. Nam was assassinated in KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport) on February 13, 2017. Two suspects were detained and subsequently brought to a Malaysian court for their murder trial on October 2. They were charged with murdering Nam with the deadly VX nerve agent but have both pleaded not guilty.

Tan Er-Win, Visiting Senior Lecturer from the Department of International and Strategic Studies in University of Malaya shared his views on the conflict between North Korea and the US with The ASEAN Post via email.

"There is no evidence that the US is mobilising the kind of military forces that would be necessary for an all-out attack on North Korea at this point in time," he said.

"One worry I have is that the Trump’s threats to launch pre-emptive attacks on North Korea and North Korea’s own provocative behaviour may cause the Republic of Korea and/or Japan to develop their own nuclear arsenals to safeguard their own security, rather than rely on an increasingly unpredictable US. Given the ambivalence with which Japan has regarded its wartime legacy, this would likely mean a regional nuclear arms race," Tan elaborated in his email response.

"If such a scenario were to occur at the same time as an increasingly insular Britain goes ahead with Brexit (and causing the constituent countries of the UK to leave the Union), I am concerned that an increasingly insular England might have reduced power projection capabilities in affirming its commitment to the security of Malaysia and Singapore under the FPDA (Five Power Defence Arrangement). Such a scenario would resemble a 21st century version of the events of 1941-42, and may prompt the remaining members of the FPDA to consider alternative arrangements for their own security," he concluded.

However, Tan stressed that this scenario is neither imminent nor likely.